Tag Archives: pipe mud

Refreshing a Comoy’s Made in London, England Bent Bulldog

Blog by Dal Stanton

I saw this Comoy’s Bent Bulldog as a charity listing on eBay for the Akron Art Museum, in Akron, Ohio.  The seller, like me, was providing pipes for a good cause and I like that.  I also liked the Bulldog I saw in the pictures the seller provided and by the description, it seemed the seller was a pipe person.  The nuts and bolts description:

A classic bulldog! About 5 1/4” long, bowl is 1 1/2” tall, 1 5/8” wide tapering to 1 1/8” at rim. ID 13/16”, depth 1 5/16”. Marked on one side of shank COMOY’S, other side MADE IN LONDON ENGLAND in circular fashion 4097, beneath shank a capital H. A capital C stamped on side of bit. No other marks detected.

Diamond saddle bit is well-seated push fit, cleaned and polished, showing some bite wear but no holes through. Some oxidation as well. Stummel is well hand worn and smoothed, some dings and scratches, scorch on rim, light cake in bowl. Though the pipe is smokable as is, this one has the possibility of being a real beauty with some TLC!

I took the gambit dangled in the last sentence regarding this Bulldog’s possible condition with some TLC.  My bid on the auction block was sufficient, I supported the Akron Art Museum, and now this Comoy’s Bent Bulldog is on the worktable here in Sofia, Bulgaria, on track to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria, my favorite cause.  This was the second pipe that Stephen commissioned along with a Custom-Bilt Rusticated Panel.  Here’s the picture I saw on eBay which got Stephen’s attention in the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! collection:Now on my worktable, I take more pictures to get a closer look at the condition of this Comoy’s Bent Bulldog. The nomenclature on the Bulldog’s diamond shank is clear.  On the upper left shank is stamped ‘Comoy’s’.  The right upper shank has encircled, ‘MADE’ with ‘IN’ in the center and ‘LONDON’ on the bottom.  Underneath the circle is ‘ENGLAND’ in straight script.  To the right is shape number ‘409 7’.  Underneath this on the lower right shank panel is stamped ‘H’.  All indicators of the nomenclature point to a Cadogan era pipe which began in 1979 with the merger absorbing Comoy’s.  The simple ‘C’ stem stamp confirms this without the classic 3 piece inlaid ‘C’.  The shape number of 409 has historically indicated a Bulldog on earlier shape charts with a slight quarter bend.  The addition of the ‘7’ on this Bulldog I’m not clear on this, except that during the Cadogan era they added a 4th number to the shapes according to the Pipepedia article on shapes. I would say that this Comoy’s Bent Bulldog has been lovingly enjoyed over the years.  He’s got quite a few scrapes and bruises for the wear, mainly on his dome and circling the double grooves.  I took quite a few pictures of these above.  I’ll need to do some repairs especially on the back side of the dome where there are several small concentrated dents.  The front of the rim has been scorched from lighting practices it appears.  The dome grooves need to be cleaned and I detect a few chips of briar on the back-right side along the grooves.  Also, of interest are two huge fills on the right side of the bowl as it tapers down.  I’ll need to take a good long look at these.  The stem has oxidation and typical tooth chatter and compression dents on the button lip and just before the button.  The former steward was a clencher.

I begin the restoration of this Comoy’s Bulldog by placing the stem in a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other pipes and stems in the queue.  Whoops, I include the original seller’s pictures – I forgot to take pictures of the original stem’s condition before putting the stem into the soak. After some hours of soaking, I remove the Bulldog stem and using a cotton cloth wetted with alcohol, I wipe down the stem removing the raised oxidation.  I follow this by wetting a cotton pad with light paraffin oil (mineral oil) and continue to wipe off the oxidation and the oil helps rejuvenate the vulcanite.After the soak wiping and the stem dries, I can still detect oxidation on the stem which requires more attention.  Before I start sanding the stem, I use Before & After Fine and Extra Fine Polishes to work on the oxidation.  It is advertised to continue the raising process of oxidation.  I start first with the Fine Polish by putting some on my finger and rubbing it in the vulcanite.  I also work it in well around the ‘C’ stamping to clean it more.  After applying, I allow it to stand for some time and then wipe off.  I do the same with the Extra Fine Polish.  After I’ve finished, I still see a deep greenish hue indicating the oxidation is still holding on.  The last picture below tries to capture what I see with the naked eye – it doesn’t do a very good job! One more noninvasive approach to the oxidation I’ll try.  I scrub the stem surface using Magic Eraser.  After working the white sponge over the entire surface, it did do a good job.  More oxidation was removed, but not enough to make me happy!  I still see oxidation especially on the ‘saddle’ of the saddle stem.  The pictures show the progression.Next, I sand the stem starting first with 240 grit paper.  I do not like going through the fine tune buffing with micromesh pads and start seeing oxidation!  So, I sand the entire stem, avoiding the Comoy’s ‘C’ stamping.  I also use at disc to sand against at the stank side of the stem.  The disc helps to guard against shouldering the stem so that the edges are not sharp as the stem joins the shank.  This sanding is primarily for dealing with the oxidation.  In the pictures below, you can see the bit area compressions that are left untouched by the sanding.Before proceeding further with the sanding of the stem, I use the heating method to raise the compressions in the vulcanite in the bit area.  Using a Bic lighter, I paint the bit and button to heat the vulcanite which causes it to expand.  The hope is that this will cause the indentations perhaps to go away or lessen in their impact so that they will then sand out more easily. After painting the bit with the open flame, it helped to minimize some, but it did not erase the dents and compressions on the bit and on the button lips.  I follow with a flat needle file to file the button to refresh and shape the edges.  I follow again with 240 grit paper continuing to sand the dents on the bit.  Using the Bic lighter to raise the dents helps and I’m able to sand out all the dents and compressions from biting. Before proceeding further with the sanding of the stem, I use the heating method to raise the compressions in the vulcanite in the bit area.  Using a Bic lighter, I paint the bit and button to heat the vulcanite which causes it to expand.  The hope is that this will cause the indentations perhaps to go away or lessen in their impact so that they will then sand out more easily. After painting the bit with the open flame, it helped to minimize some, but it did not erase the dents and compressions on the bit and on the button lips.  I follow with a flat needle file to file the button to refresh and shape the edges.  I follow again with 240 grit paper continuing to sand the dents on the bit.  Using the Bic lighter to raise the dents helps and I’m able to sand out all the dents and compressions from biting.  Next, I wet sand the entire stem using 600 grade paper and follow this by buffing with 0000 steel wool. One last thing at this point before turning to the stummel, I give the stem a coat of light paraffin oil to help revitalize it.  I put the stem aside to absorb the oil and dry. With the stummel in hand, I begin the internal cleaning by reaming the light cake build up in the chamber.  I use 3 of the 4 blade heads available from the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  I then use the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool to reach the hard to reach places in the chamber.  I then sand the chamber with 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen followed by wiping the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to clean the carbon dust left behind.  Inspection of the chamber reveals some heat fissures on the floor of the chamber.  There also appears to be a small fissure creeping up just above the draft hole.  I take a few pictures that show what I’m seeing.  Are these fissures severe enough to warrant a durable patch or perhaps apply a pipe mud to enhance the growth of a protective cake?  That’s what I’ll be considering.  Continuing the cleaning, I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap on the external briar surface.  To work on the grit lodged in the grooves I use a bristled tooth brush.  I also use a brass wire brush to work around the dome and rim to clear away the old oils. Using a sharp dental probe, I painstakingly clean both dome groves, scraping packed dirt out.  I’m careful not to jump ‘track’ out of the grooves and scratching the briar surface.  The picture shows the cleaning progress. With the externals cleaned up, I turn now to the internal mortise and airway.  Using pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95% I go to work. I quicken the work by scraping the mortise with a dental spatula.  In time, the cotton buds and pipe cleaners were coming out clean.  I’ll continue cleaning later using a kosher salt and alcohol soak.Turning again to the stummel surface, the rim and dome cleaned up well but show the dents and pockets from knocks and drops.  There remains a scorched area at the front of the rim/dome area.  There are small chips in several places around the circumference of the dome grooves.  I believe they’re all too small to patch, but with sanding I’m hoping that most should disappear or be minimized.  The most daunting aspect of the briar landscape is a huge, double fill patch on the right lower side of the stummel.  I take two pictures of the fills to show the position and a super close-up to show the appearance of the fills.  I poked the fills with a dental probe and both fills are rock solid.  Yet, as the close-up picture reveals, there are small air pocket holes in the fills and gaping around the fills.  I’ll leave the fills in place but touch them up with thin, clear CA glue and then sand to blend.  These fills will pretty well drive the boat regarding the finished look of the Comoy’s Bulldog.  The finish needs to be darker in order to mask the fills as much as possible, though even a dark stain will not hide these giants.   Looking again around the dome grooves, on the back-right quadrant there may be at least 2 candidates for a patch before sanding.  I take a picture of this area.  To the top left of the groove chips, there are also a few small holes that I’ll fill with a spot-drop of CA glue.  In this picture there are also two other small fills that seem to be in good shape.Before I begin sanding and patching, I start from the top and work my way down!  Topping the stummel will re-define the rim and address the front quadrant of the rim/dome where the former burn damage has thinned the rim.  I take some pictures to show these issues and mark the start. I put 240 grade paper on the chopping board and rotate the inverted stummel several times, checking as I go to make sure I’m staying level and not leaning into soft spots in the briar. When enough of the top is removed, I then switch the paper to 600 grade paper and turn the stummel a few more rotations. I take pictures to show the progress.  Now to the patching party!  I first wipe the stummel with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to clean the area. I start with the two large fills by spot dropping a small amount of thin CA glue over the fills and spreading the glue over the entire fill – filling the pockets and gaps.  To move the work along faster, since these are not ‘weight bearing’ patches, I use an accelerator to quicken the curing process.   For the groove patch, I insert a piece of an index card into the groove to create a flow barrier for the CA glue.  I then spot-drop a small amount of CA glue slightly above the chip and draw the glue over the chipped area with a toothpick.  Again, I use an accelerator to solidify the glue.  After a few minutes, I pull the index card away and use a sharp dental probe to make sure the groove is clear of CA glue seepage.  Next, I apply small drops to four other small pits near the grooves and above them – again, I use an accelerator.  I decide also to apply a small drop to the right of the primary groove repair.   The repairs look a mess now, but I’m hopeful that the sanding will prove to reveal a more pleasing surface!Next, I begin the filing and sanding of the two large fill patches down to the surface level.  I use a flat needle file to do this initially when the patch mound is more distinct, then follow with 240 grade paper as the sanding nears the briar surface.  The gaps and pits in the original patch filled nicely, blending better with the surrounding briar.To both clean and sharpen the grooves at the groove patch repair, I insert 240 grade paper into the groove itself.  The groove is only large enough to accommodate a single sheet, so I must flip the paper to sand both the upper and lower edges of the groove.  I use a sawing motion with the paper while in the groove and I flex the paper up to apply a little more sanding action to the groove edge.  This technique does a good job redefining and cleaning up groove edges, especially at the point of the CA glue repair.After filing, sanding the groove patch repairs, and ‘groove sanding’ the groove repair looks great!  The patch has blended, and the groove is cleaner and smarter.Next, I move on to filing and sanding the 4 patches to the left of the groove repair on the dome.  I file the patch mounds down until near the briar surface and then take over with 240 grit paper.  I sand the area of the patches to blend.  It looks good – not pristine, but much less ragged!  The battered stummel is showing some signs of life!I follow by ‘groove sanding’ this area.  I like the results of this technique, so I decide to continue the groove sanding around the entire circumference of the dome for both the upper and lower grooves.  Since I’m able only to do one directional sanding on the grooves, it requires four circuits around the dome to do the job!  I refined the technique as I work – by flexing the paper somewhat I can sand more directly chips encountered on the groove edge as I slowly work around the dome.  The pictures show the groove sanding progress and results – much cleaner and crisper for this Comoy’s Bulldog! I continue preparing the external briar surface by sponge sanding starting first with the coarse sanding sponge.  I then use a medium grade sponge then finish with a light grade sanding sponge.  I avoid totally the upper shank panels with the nomenclature.  Sanding sponges help to clean the surface of the minor nicks and cuts and soften the look without an overly intrusive sanding effect.  The pictures show the results of the 3 sponges. As I sponge sand the dome of the Bulldog, I notice a chip in the inner lip of the rim that became more distinct during the sanding process.  To erase this small divot, I introduce a very gentle inner bevel to the rim using 240 grade paper rolled.  This dispatched the divot quickly. Earlier, I avoided using the sanding sponges on the nomenclature panels in order not to diminish the Comoy’s stampings.   I do want to clean the panels more to rid the old residue finish before applying a fresh stained finish.  To remove the old finish and to clean the panel I apply acetone to a cotton pad and wipe the panels.  This does the job. With the time of my departure for the work day rapidly approaching, I continue the internal cleaning of the mortise and airway using a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  After forming a wick by stretching and twisting a cotton ball, I insert it down the mortise and airway using a stiff wire.  The wick acts to draw out the tars and oils.  I then add kosher salt (no aftertaste) to the chamber and place the stummel in an egg crate for stability.  With a large eyedropper, I add isopropyl 95% to the chamber until is surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes, after the alcohol has absorbed into the chamber, I top off the alcohol and set the stummel aside to soak for the day.Arriving home several hours later, the soak did the job of finishing the internal cleaning.  I clean the expended salt from the chamber with paper towel and shank brushes as well as blowing through the mortise.  I run an additional pipe cleaner and cotton bud wetted with alcohol to assure the internals were clean.  They are, now moving on!Before proceeding further with the external stummel preparation, I’ve come to a decision point regarding the chamber issues that I saw earlier.  The floor of the chamber has heat fissures which the first picture shows.  The second picture shows the fissure immediately above the draft hole.  The upper chamber shows some heating issues with small, more normal chamber wear.  Earlier, my question had been, do the fissures on the floor of the chamber need a more durable response than simply applying a pipe mud mixture to enhance the growth of a protective cake?  The floor of the chamber has experience overheating issues and I believe at this point would benefit from applying J-B Weld to prevent further damage and to reinforce the resistance of the chamber floor.J-B Weld comes with two components that are mixed together and once mixed harden to form a heat resistant bond.  I’ll mix a small amount and apply it to the floor of the chamber then spread it over the area, including above the draft hole, filling the fissures with the Weld.  After it hardens and cures, I’ll sand the excess. I first wipe the chamber with alcohol and put a pipe cleaner through the airway to block seepage into the draft hole.  After I mix J-B Weld components in equal parts, I apply a small amount on the floor of the chamber and spread it with a dental spatula and my finger. I rotate the pipe cleaner so that it is not stuck but I leave it in place – I don’t want to pull it out while the J-B Weld is wet leaving the mixture in the mortise.  I put the stummel aside for the J-B Weld to cure.  After the repair cured overnight, I take a picture of the sanding process using 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  I concentrate on removing the excess J-B Weld so that all that is left of the weld is what has filled the fissures and cracks. The next pictures show a much healthier chamber.  At the floor of the chamber in the first pictures and concentrating on the area immediately above the draft hole in the second picture, you still see what appears to be rough spots, but it is now smooth to the touch in large measure.  The Weld filled the cracks and reinforced the area.  The application of J-B Weld and the additional sanding on the floor and the walls of the chamber cleaned it up nicely.  Putting the stummel aside, I take the stem and wet sand using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400.  I follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads I apply Obsidian Oil to revitalize the vulcanite. With the stem waiting in the wings, I continue with the stummel by wet sanding with micromesh pads 1500 to 2400.  I follow this by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I take pictures of both sides of the stummel to show the huge fills on the right side.  If it weren’t for these unavoidable fills, the fantastic recovery the stummel has made would encourage me to leave the original, natural grain finish in place.  The briar surface had many issues, but the results of the micromesh sanding reveal a very attractive grain presentation.  The next step is to apply a dark stain to the Comoy’s Bulldog that will serve to help mask the issues prevalent on the surface.  Without question, my plan is to apply Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye to the stummel surface.  I assemble all the needed components on the table to apply the stain.  First, using a sharp dental probe I carefully dig out and scrape the dome grooves to make sure the debris is gone.  After wiping the stummel with alcohol to clean and prepare the surface, I fit the stummel with a cork I’ve fashioned as a handle inserted into the mortise.  Next, I heat the stummel with a hot air gun to expand the briar grain.  This aids the briar in absorbing the dye pigment.  Using a folded over pipe cleaner, I apply the dye to the stummel.  After a thorough application, I flame the stummel with a lit candle and the alcohol-based aniline dye combusts and sets the dye in the grain.  After a few minutes, I apply the dye again and flame again to make sure there is an even coverage.  I then set the stummel aside for the dyed stummel to rest. After resting for several hours through the night, it’s time to unwrap the fire-crusted Comoy’s stummel.  Over time, I have developed my own techniques for use with the Dremel since this is my main and only work horse tool on the 10th floor flat of a formerly Communist block apartment building!  My usual method for ‘unwrapping’ has been with the use of a felt buffing wheel, which is more abrasive than cotton, applying Tripoli compound.  I love this technique because the result reveals a more brilliant grain pattern as it lightens the grain veins leaving them in contrast to the softer briar wood which absorbs more of the dye.  However, I have found that using the felt buffing wheel lightens the entire stummel.  With the large dark fills on this stummel in need of remaining masked for better blending, I use a cotton cloth buffing wheel with Tripoli compound to unwrap the flamed crust.  The softer cotton wheel isn’t as abrasive and leaves a darker dyed hue on the briar surface.  After mounting a cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel, I set the speed at the lowest RPM and I apply Tripoli to the stummel. I take a couple staged pictures to show the contrast between the flamed crust and the surface that has been ‘unwrapped’ and buffed with compound.  After completing with the Tripoli, I wet a cotton pad with alcohol to wipe the stummel not so much to lighten but to blend the new stained finish. Next, I rejoin the stem and stummel to apply Blue Diamond compound.  I discover that the junction between the tenon and mortise has loosened through the cleaning process – a common thing in my experience.  To remedy this, I take a drill bit the next size larger than will fit through the tenon airway.  I use a Bic lighter and heat the tenon and after a bit, the vulcanite tenon becomes supple and allows me gradually to insert the drill bit end into the airway.  This expands the tenon and tightens the connection.  This works like a charm!  With the stem now fitting snuggly, I continue to apply Blue Diamond to the stummel and stem.  I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel and increase the speed to about 40% full power.  I apply Blue Diamond compound to both stem and stummel.Before moving on to applying carnauba wax to the pipe, I have two more projects to do.  The first is to apply white acrylic paint to refresh the Comoy’s ‘C’ stamping on the stem.  The second is to apply pipe mud to the chamber.  I decide to do the latter first.  After the repair done to the chamber, to enhance the healthy development of a protective cake (which should be maintained at about the width of a US dime coin) I use a mixture called pipe mud – a combination of cigar ash and water.  This mixture, once applied to the chamber and dries, hardens to create a starter surface for the cake to develop.  My colleague, Gary, who lives in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, is the cigar man who saves his ash for my use. Thanks, Gary!  I mix some water with ash in a plastic dish and mix it with my pipe nail until it starts to thicken. At this point, I apply it in the chamber with the nail and my finger.  It doesn’t dry quickly so there’s time to spread it evenly over the chamber.  After spread, I insert a pipe cleaner through the draft hole to keep it clear of the mud.  I then put the stummel aside in the egg cart for the mud to cure. Turning now to the Comoy’s ‘C’ stem stamp, I put a drop of white acrylic paint over the ‘C’ and absorb the excess with a cotton pad and ‘dob’ it out so that the paint thins and dries.  I then use a toothpick’s flat edge to gently scrape the excess paint off after it dries.  I have to reapply paint a few times to get it right.  The pictures show the process. After allowing the pipe mud to cure, I rejoin stem and stummel and once more, run the sharp dental probe in the grooves around the circumference of the dome then buff the pipe with a felt cloth clearing away the compound dust before applying wax.  I then mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, keep the speed at about 40% full power and apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the pipe.  I finish the restoration by using a microfiber cloth to give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine.

I’m pleased with the results of this Comoy’s Made in London, England, Bent Bulldog.  The restoration was fought in the trenches!  The many repairs done to the stummel surface came out well, though the two large fills are still evident, but not as overt. The dark brown dye came out beautifully and the groove patches and repairs have all but disappeared.  I’m glad I also addressed the heat fissure issues in the chamber.  This Comoy’s Bent Bulldog will provide many more years of service to a new steward.  Stephen commissioned this Comoy’s and will have first opportunity to acquire it in the Pipe Steward Store and this pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually abused.  Thanks for joining me!



A Willard Dublin Renewed and Given a Facelift

Blog by Steve Laug

This is another pipe from the box of pipes that I was gifted. It is stamped Willard over Imported Briar. I have cleaned up quite a few old Willard pipes over the years but never took the time to figure out the manufacturer or other information regarding them. I turned to Pipedia and did not find the listing so I checked on PipePhil’s site and found what I was looking for. I have included the photo below for comparison sake. The Willard I have is stamped the same as the top photo. The stem logo is also the same. On the side bar the site included the following information: “The Willard pipes were made by Sparta Industries in Sparta, N.C from 1963 to 1975 (about 60,000 pipes per week). Some were distributed by the Post and Base Exchanges that serviced the military during the Vietnam War. Others were produced for R. J. Reynolds Tobacco.” So I had time frame for this pipe – made in Sparta, North Carolina sometime between 1963-1975. That was way more than I had when I started.Willard The pipe on my work table had the same overall look as the one in the top photo above. Even the darkening of the rim was similar and the wear on the stem. The finish was the same indestructible varnish coat over a red stain. When I started the cleanup I thought the bit was nylon but as I worked on it I am sure it is not. The sanding dust is dark black and is like rubber of some sort. I am still not sure of the material but it is soft to the teeth.Willard1

Willard2 The stem material did not seem to oxidize. There was some definite tooth chatter on the stem near the button but it also looked like someone had put a softie bit on it to protect it after the initial chatter. The metal tenon had a removable stinger in place that was covered with “gunk” (technical pipe refurbisher terminology). The varnish coat was in rough shape and peeling. There was underlying dirt that had gotten in under the edges of the peeling varnish. The briar itself was in decent shape under the finish and did not have much damage other than scratching on the sides of the bowl. The rim was blackened but not charred. The varnish had disappeared on the rim almost as if the heat had peeled it back from the inner edge outward. There was also some surface scratching on the rim.Willard3

Willard4 I have included the next close-up photos of the rim and the stem to show the extent of the damage to both. The bowl had been reamed but there was some damage on the side of the bowl that I will talk about shortly.Willard5


Willard7 I used acetone on cotton pads to scrub the finish off the bowl. It took some elbow grease and repeated applications of the acetone to the surface of the bowl to remove the varnish but I was able to remove it totally from all the stamping and the entire finish of the bowl. Underneath was some decent grain and very few fills.Willard8



Willard11 I scrubbed out the mortise and shank with isopropyl alcohol on cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. It was actually one of the cleanest pipes that I have worked on lately. It took very little effort to clean the stem and shank. The pipe shows some promise in the photo below.Willard12 With the exterior of the bowl clean and the shank clean it was now time to address the issue that I had found in the bowl. The photo below shows the divot out of the side of the bowl. I don’t think it was a burn out happening though it certainly could go that way. I picked at the briar in that area with a dental pick and nothing was soft or crumbly. Even the edges of the area were solid and hard. I wonder if it was a soft spot in the briar, a flaw that showed up when the pipe was smoked and then when it was reamed fell out of the side of the bowl. There was no darkening on the exterior of the bowl relative to the flaw on the inside so I figure I was safe to repair it.Willard13 I fired up a cigar and retired to the porch to smoke it and collect the ash to make up a batch of pipe mud. I collect the cigar ash in a shot glass as I can easily mix it with water when I work the ash into mud.Willard14 The next photo shows the tools (the micromesh pads just happened to be there. I don’t use them in the process, in case you were wondering.). I have the shot glass of ash, a shot glass of water, a pipe nail and a folded pipe cleaner. These are all the tools necessary to make and apply the mud.Willard15 I put a few drops of water into the ash glass and slowly mix it into the ash. It is easy to put too much water and then you either have to fire up another cigar or pour off some of the excess to get the consistency needed in the mud to stick to the wall of the pipe. To wet and it puddles in the bottom of the bowl and too thick it just sticks to the applicator.Willard16 Once I have the mix the right consistency I apply it to the side of the bowl with the “applicator” – a folded pipe cleaner and then tamp it into place with the spoon end of the pipe nail. I put it in place, tamp it down and then let it sit. As it dries I added further applications to the surface until it is level with the rest of the bowl. The next photos show the bowl side and give an idea about the consistency of the mud.Willard17


Willard19 I set the bowl aside to let the pipe mud cure and worked on the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter and reshape the button. I sanded until the surface was smooth and then sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge. I wiped it down with a soft cloth and then sanded it with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with the 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each set of three pads and then rubbed it down a final time once I finished sanding with the 12,000 grit pad. I buffed the stem with White Diamond using a light touch as I was still uncertain of the stem material. I have learned the hard way that soft nylon stems are quickly melted by the heat generated by a buffing pad.Willard20


Willard22 I rubbed the bowl down with a light coat of olive oil to highlight the grain and the red stain left in the briar. I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond plastic polish to raise the shine. I then gave the pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax and finished by buffing it with a soft flannel buff to finish. The completed pipe is shown below. The pipe mud is cured and will only harden with time. Once it is good and hard it will provide a base for a cake to build up and the gouge will be invisible. It should provide a good smoking pipe for the next pipeman who takes it to his rack.Willard23










Plugging a Burnout on a Peterson’s Irish Whiskey 999

Blog by Steve Laug

Lately several of the pipes that I have refurbished were part of a trade with Mark Domingues for work on this pipe. It is a beautifully grained Peterson’s Rhodesian 999 – one of my favourite shapes. The grain on this thing is beautiful. The photo below shows what drew Mark to bid on this pipe in the first place. What the photo does not show however, is the incredibly horrible shape that this pipe was in when it came to Mark.

The problem with the pipe became obvious when Mark took it out of the shipping package to enjoy the “new” Peterson that he had purchased. The pipe had a serious burn through on the front right side of the bowl toward the bottom. That damage was quite extensive and either the pipe could be thrown away or the burn through drilled out and the damaged briar replaced with a briar plug.

Mark decided to drill out the damaged portion of the bowl. We talked back and forth via email about the steps to take to fix it. He toyed with it and then one day asked if I wanted to do the work on it. He would send the pipe, a chunk of briar some pipes that he thought I might enjoy working on in exchange for the repair. After emailing back and forth we agreed to the terms and he sent the bowl on to me to do the repair in exchange for a few pipes for my refurbishing box. Here is what the pipe looked like when it arrived in Vancouver. Mark had cleaned up the exterior of the pipe and also the interior and drilled out the burnout. The brass/gold band on the shank was loose and the stem was in decent shape with two minor tooth marks.



The top view of the pipe, shown in the photo below, also highlights several others issues with the pipe. First, the bowl itself was not drilled straight into the briar but at a slight angle from left to right. Second, the stem was totally out of round and the right side of the stem fit against the band far differently than the left side. Looking at the stem from the tenon end it was clear that the stem was not round but rather oblong. The small block of briar in the photo was sent along by mark for me to use in cutting a plug for the bowl.

I used a small hacksaw to cut off a small chunk of briar. I then shaped the briar chunk into a cylinder. I always cut the plug long to give me something to hold onto when I am shaping it. I am sure others do it differently but I shape the plug with a Dremel by hand and I hold the piece of briar with my fingers while I shape it. The next series of eight photos show the progressive shaping of the cylinder to fit the drilled out hole in the bowl of the pipe.








The next four photos show the final shape of the cylinder. I left a slight handle on the top of the plug to hold onto while I turned the cylinder with the Dremel. I tapered the plug slightly so that it would fit into the hole but not extend to far into the bowl itself. Once I had the shape correct and the piece extending into the bowl smoothed to fit the shape of the bowl I glued it in place with superglue.




I used the hacksaw to trim off the excess briar in the plug as close as possible to the surface of the bowl.


Once I had it trimmed back to that place I used the Dremel and sanding drum to sand it down to the surface and then hand sanded with 220 grit sandpaper to make the surface of the plug and the bowl match. I used superglue around the circumference of the plug to hold it tightly in place.

I washed down the surface of the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the grit and the remaining finish on the bowl. I also sanded the plug and the rim with 220 grit sandpaper and then medium and fine grit sanding sponges to smooth out the scratches. I sanded the inner rim with a folded piece of sandpaper to remove the damage to that portion of the bowl. In the photos below the fit and finish of the plug is clearly visible. The grain on the plug and that on the bowl did not match but the fit was nearly perfect.




Mark and I had talked about rusticating the whole bowl but I could not bring myself to do that to such a beautiful piece of briar. I marked the area that I planned on rusticating with a black permanent marker to give myself an outlined area that I would rusticate. I find that setting up parameters and boundaries for the rustication helps me to keep it in a defined space more easily.

I used the modified Philips screwdriver with the four points to rusticate this part of the bowl. The next two photos show the rusticated portion of the bowl. The area of the older briar showed dark spots in the rustication and the new fresh plug showed almost white after rustication.


I decided to try and use a dark brown aniline stain thinned 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol on the whole pipe to see what would happen with the rustication. I wanted to see if the dark areas on the rustication would blend into the briar of the lighter parts. I did not really expect it to work but thought I would give it a try.




The dark portions of the old briar still showed dark after staining. I decided to use a black aniline stain on the rusticated portion of the bowl and leave the smooth part of the bowl the brown colour. I applied the stain with a cotton swab and flamed it, reapplied it and reflamed it until the coverage was even.



The inside of the bowl then needed to be addressed. The drilling of the bowl was not only angled from left to right but the airway entered the bowl over 3/8 inches above the bottom of the bowl. Whether this was caused by drilling or over reaming is not clear to me. My problem was that the angle of the patch on the side did allow me to shape the patch to provide a new bottom for the bowl. I could have cut another piece of briar and inserted it into the bottom of the bowl but the strange angles of the bowl made that a task that I did not want to tackle. I opted to build up the bottom of the bowl with Plaster of Paris instead of pipe mud because of the depth of the buildup. My fear was that the pipe mud would have to be almost ½ inch thick and I was not sure if it would hold. I have used Plaster of Paris to repair meerlined pipes and it is durable and gives a solid base. I intend to use pipe mud on top of the repair and also reshape the bowl sides.

I glued the band on the shank with wood glue before I restained it with another coat of the medium brown aniline stain. I flamed it and then buffed it with White Diamond. I gave the smooth portions of the bowl several coats of carnauba wax and hand buffed the rusticated portion with Halcyon II wax.




I sanded the tooth marks and chatter out of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and a medium grit sanding sponge. I reshaped the stem to fit more proportionally against the band. I made it round instead of oblong so that the fit against the band was even all the way around giving it a more finished look. I then sanded it with my usual array of micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and when it was dry buffed it with White Diamond. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax to finish and protect it.



The next series of five photos show the finished exterior and stem of the pipe. The stain and the patch rustication are completed. The interior of the bowl still only bears the plaster repair. Once it cures for several days I will give it a coating of pipe mud to finish the job.





The pipe is finished other than the pipe mud and soon it will go back to Mark for its inaugural smoke. I am looking forward to hearing his response once the pipe is in his hands and he has smoked it.

UPDATE: I applied the pipe mud to the bowl last evening. It was a great day to fire up a Cohiba Habana and save the ash to mix. I use a shot glass to collect the ash and add the water with an ear syringe. Once the mix is the right consistency I apply it with a folded pipe cleaner. I apply it and let it set and then follow up with a second or third coat as necessary.

For this particular pipe mud application I built up the right side of the bowl toward the bottom to compensate for the angular drilling of the bowl. I was able to smooth out the wall and that side is as straight as possible.

Restoration – The Guildhall 284

By Al Jones

I am an admirer of the Rhodesian shape and the Comoy’s Shape 284, a compact Rhodesian, is one of my favorites. Unfortunately that shape doesn’t show up that often and when it does there is strong competition. I found this “The Guidall” shape 284 on Ebay but it was not in great shape, so I took a chance on it. “The Guildhall London Pipe” is a Comoy’s second line with a distinctive three-metal bar stem logo.

As you can see from these photos, the stem was heavily oxidized but it didn’t appear to have any tooth marks. The bowl top was a little misshapen and it had a very heavy cake build-up. Mike, the “Streets of London” social group administrator on the SmokersForums.uk tells me that The Guidall used pre-made stems. This one had a large stinger. I’m not a fan of stingers, so I warmed the metal end of the stinger and pulled it out.

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Guidall_284_Before (1)

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I reamed the bowl starting with my smallest Castleford bit and gradually worked up to the full bowl size. There was some damage at the bottom of the bowl that I will have to repair with some “pipe mud” (cigar ash & water). I soaked the bowl overnight with some sea salt and alcohol to remove the tars and residue. The stem was soaked in a mild Oxyclean and water solution. The metal stem logo looked pretty durable, so I didn’t do anything to protect it.

After the bowl soak was completed, I polished the briar on my buffer with some Tripoli and then White Diamond rouge. The briar was in remarkably good condition, considering the way the rest of the pipe was treated over its life. I didn’t detect any fills or other imperfections. You can see the burned out area on the bottom of the bowl, but when I filled it with pipe mud, it wasn’t as deep as it appeared.

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The stem took quite a bit of work to remove the heavy layer of oxidation, which was also in the draft hole. I started with 800 wet grit paper, then progressed to 1500 and 200 grits. I then moved to the micro-mesh paper, with 8000 and finally 12000 grit papers used. The stem was then buffed on the machine with White Diamond rouge. I always use an automotive plastic polish as a final prep. The end of the stem where it meets the briar still has a little oxidation but I was reluctant to sand further for fear of rounding the stem. I may go back and retouch this area. I mixed up some cigar ash I save with just a few drops of water to make a paste called “pipe mud”. I used the spoon on a Czech tool to ladle in the mixture and a small button head bolt to tamp it into shape.

The premade stem feels all right in my mouth, but I have to wait until the pipe mud dries to smoke it. I need a compact pipe for travel use and carry in my one-pipe bag and I’m hoping this one can fit that requirement.

Here is the finished pipe.

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Repairing an Over-Reamed Bowl in a GBD Collector Century

Blog by Steve Laug

I picked up this older GBD bent apple with a Perspex stem on EBay for a reasonable price, at least in my opinion it was reasonable. On the left side it is stamped: Collector in script over GBD in an oval over Century. On the right side it is stamped: London England over the shape number 9633. The Collector line is the middle line between the Conquest and the Colossal. These three lines were termed GBD plus sized pipes. The dimensions on this one are length: 5 ½ inches, height: 1 ¾ inches, outer diameter: 1 ¼ inches, chamber diameter: 1 inch. The bowl exterior is chunky and wide and the bowl is larger than normal sized GBD`s.

The two pictures below are the ones that were used on the listing on EBay. The stem is dirty but whole and intact. The bowl rim is badly caked and the bowl itself looks to be caked and maybe a bit over reamed but it is hard to tell. The finish on the pipe was pretty much gone as can be seen in the two photos. There were some dark marks on the bowl front and the sides were faded in colour. Nonetheless it looked like it was worth a bid in my opinion. I asked a few questions of the seller and was answered cordially but with little helpful information regarding the state of the bowl. So I would just have to see it when it arrived. ImageImage

When it came, it was both in better shape and worse shape than the photos in the listing showed. The finish was dirty and really not in too bad a shape other than worn spots. The rim was caked and dirty but was not dented and damaged. The bowl had indeed been over-reamed. In fact it looked to have the beginnings of a burnout – or at least a hot spot on the bottom of the bowl. The stem was dirty but had no bite marks and minimal tooth chatter. Looking at the bottom of the bowl I notice what appeared to be a dark spot and maybe even the beginnings of a hole. This was not a good sign. I had repaired that old Dunhill with a briar plug not long before this so I knew it could be repaired but I wanted to be sure of what I was dealing with. I took the bowl and stem apart and carefully reamed the sides of the bowl to clean out the remaining grit. The top was cleaned with Murphy’s Oil Soap undiluted and scrubbed with a tooth brush. I did not worry about the finish as I was going to restain and refinish it when I was done. I set the stem aside for a bit while I worked on the bowl. Once it was clean I put it in an alcohol bath to soak and remove the remaining finish and grime. ImageImageImage

I removed the bowl from the alcohol bath and wiped it down to dry it off. I turned it over and the three pictures below show what I saw. From the outside the bowl looked like it was beginning to burnout. There was a darkening on the surface and what appeared to be a small crack in the briar. From the inside the over-reaming can be seen clearly. The bottom of the bowl was below the airway and the remaining briar was very thin.


I sanded the bottom of the bowl to see how deep the discolouration went into the briar and was pleasantly surprised. The photo below shows what the spot looked like after sanding. I then used a dental pick to pick at the crack in the surface and see how thin it was and how deep the crack went. The briar was still hard and did not break away with the dental pick. That was another good sign. I cleaned the surface with isopropyl alcohol and dried it off. I used some small drops of super glue to fill the crack and then sanded the surface again to smooth the patch of the glue. I did not plan on selling this pipe as it is a shape I enjoy so all of my work was for my own use at this point.  Image

The picture below shows the bowl after some more sanding and a light coat of medium brown stain. I restained the entire bowl and buffed it to see if the repair would be less obvious. You can see from the photo below that it is a bit darker and would require a few more coats of the brown stain to make it recede into the background.


I fired up a good cigar and made some pipe mud of the ash and water and began to rebuild the bottom of the bowl. I layered on several coats of the mud allowing it to dry to the touch between coats. My goal was to build up the bottom of the bowl to the bottom of the air way. The pipe mud is fairly thick but it actually worked quite well. In the photo below you can see the bottom of the bowl. I also used it to fill in some of the cracks in the cake on the sides of the bowl. I wanted to protect this pipe from further damage to the bowl.


Once that was finished and dry I restained the pipe with two more coats of the medium brown aniline stain. I flamed the stain between coats to set it. Once it was dry I buffed the bowl with Tripoli to make the grain show and lighten the stain. The next series of four photos show the finished look of the bowl. The photo showing the bottom of the bowl shows that I was able to blend in the darkened area with each successive coat of stain. It is still present but it does not pop out at you when you look at it. In the photos you will also notice a pipe cleaner inserted in the stem. I used lemon juice to soak the stain in the Perspex as well as some hand cleaner with grit in it. The stain is stubborn to remove so I left the pipe cleaner soaked in the products in the stem overnight several times in an effort to remove the stain. You can see from the photos that it is lighter than when it arrived but it is still present. (NOTE: do not use alcohol in cleaning Perspex stems as it causes the stems to craze – multitudes of tiny cracks appear throughout the material.) ImageImageImageImage

The last series of photos shows the pipe as it is today. The refurbishment on it was about 2 or more years ago. I have smoked it in my rotation and it smokes very cool. The pipe mud has held up well and is incredibly hard now. The finish has darkened a bit and taken on a patina that I like. The save on this pipe worked incredibly well. One day if the need arises I can put a briar plug in the bottom of the bowl but so far it has not been necessary. ImageImageImageImage

The Pleasure of Playing with the Mud

One of my simple pleasures in an otherwise busy life is to refurbish pipes that I pick up on eBay and in different junk and thrift shops I frequent on my travels. As I refurbish and restore old pipes I enjoy a sense of fulfillment from not only bringing an old pipe back to life but in improving its smoke-ability. One of the tricks I have learned (I am sure I got it somewhere online) is that of raising the bottom of the bowl in a pipe that has been drilled too high. It is done with a concoction called pipe mud and given a bit of curing time can dry to a very hard surface that imparts no residual taste to my favourite tobaccos smoked in the “newly” reconditioned pipe.

Last weekend I had to mix up a batch of pipe mud to raise the floor on a pipe I was refurbishing. When I need to mix a batch of pipe mud it is a pleasure because it gives me an excuse to smoke a good cigar. Some of you don’t need an excuse to do so, but I do! My wife hates the smell of them and gives me grief over smoking them. She relegates me to the porch, which in the summer is a great place to relax and enjoy the parade of life that goes by on the sidewalk and street in front of my home. In the winter that is an altogether different matter as it is cold and damp here in Vancouver. So this excuse is a good one and works well for me. I look her straight in the eye and say, “I need to smoke it to make a batch of mud for my pipe”. Now, she likes the pipe (“likes” may be too strong a word to use but let’s just say she indulges me). So you can see the excuse works well.

I opened my humidor and looked through the cigars I have until one caught my fancy. This process is also part of the pleasure for me as I only smoke cigars that I like and none of the nasty ones that are so cheap here – Poms and Colts and the like. All of my cigars are Cubans (a perk of living in Canada and not having an embargo in place) so it is a process of finding one that I will be able to enjoy in the time I can stand being out in the cold on the porch. I picked out a nice little Romeo y Julietta and got out my punch, punched the end of the cigar and took an ash tray in which to collect the precious ash. I bundled up in my big coat, scarf and a toque (stocking cap for the non-Canadians among us) and went out on the front porch. I rolled the cigar under my nose and enjoyed the grassy smell of good tobacco. I double checked the punched hole in the end of the cigar to make sure it was perfect! Then I fired it up with my lighter. I rolled it as I lit it and drew the smoke into my mouth. I rolled it around to get the full taste of the tobacco. It had been awhile since I had a good cigar but this one quickly made me forget the damp cold of a rainy Wet Coast day in Vancouver. A good R&J cigar is a thing of wonder to me… the many dimensions to the flavour and the fullness of the taste that they deliver are excellent.

Throughout the smoke I collected the ash in my ashtray. I always make a bit of a game out of smoking my cigar and try to see how long I can keep the ash on the front before it falls off. I keep the ashtray in my lap just in case. I learned that from way to many ashes falling down the front of my coat or sweater. Besides I wanted to keep these ashes for their deeper and more “profound” purpose!

I sat and enjoyed a good cigar and the quiet afternoon with the steady drip of the rain and swish of cars going by on the street in front of the house. Too quickly the cigar was at its end and the time was over. What a great afternoon smoke and a restful break. Once the cigar was finished I use the remaining butt as food for my Rhododendrons. I crush it, break it up and sprinkle it on around the base with the remnants of coffee grounds that my Rhodies love. I carried the ash tray into the house and hung up my coat and scarf. The toque went back to its place in the secretary by the door. I kicked off my shoes and scooted into my slippers and carried the ash tray to my basement desk and work table.

I have a small cup of water at the desk and an ear syringe that gives me more control over the amount of water I add to the ashes. I want to add just enough to make a paste. I give it a few drops to start with and stir it up with a folded pipe cleaner. I continue to add water to the mixture until I get it to be the consistency that I want. One convenience of the mix is that if I add to much water I can leave it and the water will evaporate.

While the mix is sitting I prepare the pipe for the work. I remove the stem and insert a fluffy pipe cleaner into the shank with the end just extending into the bowl. I do not want to clog the airway with the mud when I put it in. This keeps that from happening. I folded a pipe cleaner in half to use as a brush to apply the mud to the bowl of the pipe. I usually put it into the bottom of the chamber and use a pipe nail to tamp it solidly in place. I fill the bottom until it is at the level I want. Tamping it down assures that I don’t get much shrinkage in the ash mixture as it dries out. I also apply the mud to the walls of the pipe where I see any cracks in the cake and around the air hole to make for a good clean entry way.

Once the mud has been applied the pipe goes into a stand to sit for two days. I want the mud to dry solidly and cure well. Once that is done I carefully load a bowl with a favourite tobacco and smoke it letting the heat do a final cure on the mud. When I am emptying the pipe I am careful. Generally I have found that after several smokes the mud is very solid and I can smoke it and clean the pipe as usual.

Hopefully by this point in this piece you can appreciate the pleasure of playing with pipe mud. I will talk with you later, right now I am going to go have a look on eBay and see if I can find a few more pipes to refurbish. In the lot of them I am sure that there will be at least one that needs a good application of pipe mud. Then I can enjoy another good cigar.