Tag Archives: pipe restemming

Restemming and Rebirthing a L’Artigiana Italian Made Freehand


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe in the queue came to us from a recent pipe hunt that Jeff and his wife did in Utah. It is an interesting Freehand bowl that has a heavy rustication around the bowl and shank and a plateau rim top and shank end. It has a smooth panel on the left side where it is stamped. It reads L’Artigiana [over] Italy. I think that this will be another nice looking piece once it is cleaned up and restemmed. The bowl is thickly caked with an overflow of lava filling in much of the plateau rim top. The rustication around the bowl and shank are very deep and craggy and filled in with a lot of dust and debris. The top and edges of the bowl look good but I would be more certain once I reamed and cleaned it. The exterior of the briar was dirty with grime and dust. Jeff took photos of the pipe before my cleanup work. They tell the story and give a glimpse of the promise that we see in this pipe. He took a photo of the plateau rim top to show the cake in the bowl, the lava on the rim top and the inner edge.  The lava coat on the rim top filled in the plateau top to the point of the valleys being filled in.The next photos show the rustication portions of the bowl. The dust and debris has filled in many of the deepest grooves in the rustication. It is a pretty nice looking pipe under the grime.   He took photos of the stamping on the left side of the shank. It is faint on the left end but is otherwise readable in the photo below and is as noted above. I turned to Pipedia to read about L Artigiana Pipes. There was no specific listing for the brand but under the Makers list it was listed as a sub brand or second connected the brand to Cesare Barontini (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Italian_Pipe_Brands_%26_Makers_K_-_L). Quote:

Cesare Barontini sub-brand / second.

From there I turned to the article that I have read previous on Pipedia about Ceare Barontini (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Barontini,_Cesare).

In 1890 Turildo Barontini opened a factory for the production of briar. In 1925 his son Bruno began to produce the first pipes. Cesare Barontini, son of Bruno, started direction of the factory in 1955, and still runs it together with his daughters Barbara and Silvia.

Sub-brands & Seconds:

Aldo Velani

Cesare

L’artigiana

Stuart

Cortina

See also Barontini, Ilio, Cesare’s cousin.

I love the description as it truly captures the shape and beauty of this freehand pipe. The article above stated that the pipe is handcrafted by artists so that each one is a unique piece. It is cut from the plateau to leave that exposed on the top of the rim and down the shank to the end. It has a thumb hole cut for comfort in holding it while smoking. It is suggested that pipe sold for $60. Now to work on the pipe.

Jeff had cleaned up the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet pipe reamer and removed the rest of it with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife.  He scrubbed the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and rinsed it off with warm water. It looked very good but I forgot to take photos of the bowl when I brought it to the table – one of those days I guess. You will get a feel for it in the photos below.

I found a perfect fancy stem for the pipe in my stem can that was a potential candidate for the pipe. The issue with it was that the tenon had broken somewhere in its life. I tend to keep this kind of thing around as I have learned that I seem to always have a use for them. I drilled out the airway with a series of drill bits starting with one slightly larger than the airway in the stem and ending with one that would fit the threaded end of the new tenon. I put a pipe cleaner in the airway and painted the threaded tenon end with black super glue. I threaded the new tenon onto the pipe cleaner and pressed it into the hole in the stem. I set it aside to let the glue cure while I worked on the bowl. Now you will finally see the bowl! I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and a horse hair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. Eventually I would need to soak it in Briarville’s Deoxidizer but I had some work to do first to clean the damages to the stem. I “painted” the tooth marks with the flame of a Bic lighter and was able to raise all of them on the underside and all but one on the top side.  Before I put the stem in the soak I decided to put it in the shank and take pictures of the pipe at this point in the process. I am really pleased with the overall look. Once the vulcanite is polished the stem will look perfect with the pipe. I removed the stem from the pipe and put it in the bath of Briarville’s Pipe Stem Oxidation Remover overnight to let it do its magic. When I took it out of the bath I dried it off with a paper towel and rubbed off the product it had softened the oxidation but did not remove it. Lot of sanding and polishing remained on this one.I sanded the top surface of the stem and filled in the tooth mark along the button with black super glue. Once the glue cured I used a small file to flatten out the repair. I followed that by sanding the entire stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation remaining on the stem. I started to polish the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.     With both parts of this unique L’Artigiana Freehand finished, I polished the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The mix of grain on the bowl came alive with the buffing. The finish on the briar works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is a well-proportioned, nicely grained L’Artigiana Freehand. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. This interestingly made Freehand will be going onto the rebornpipes store very soon. If you would like to purchase it and carry on the legacy of the previous pipe smoke send a message or an email to me. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me on this Italian Made L’Artigiana pipe. 

I was Gifted an LB Stem for my Dunhill Shell Briar LB F/T Chunky Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

When I restored this Dunhill Shell Briar LB F/T Chunky Billiard I closed the blog asking that if anyone came across a stem for an LB that they would be willing to part with to contact me as I really wanted a Dunhill stem on this pipe (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/07/26/breathing-life-into-a-1968-dunhill-shell-briar-lb-f-t-group-4-billiard/). The pipe is a beautiful sandblasted Billiard with the unique Dunhill Sandblast finish made in 1968 (since that time I am leaning toward a 1958 date for the pipe). It is a great looking pipe that is in almost new condition. The dark finish that is identified as a black stain highlights some great grain around the bowl sides and the heel. It has some great rugged sandblast that Dunhill specialized in making. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition and the repaired area on the front outer edge of the rim top looks very good. The mix of stains works well to highlight the grain. The polished black replacement vulcanite taper replacement stem adds to the mix. I had drilled and inserted a blue dot on the top of the stem to get by while I hunted for a proper stem. Here are some photos of the pipe once I had finished the restoration of both the bowl and stem. Not too long ago I was on one of the Facebook pipe groups and David Andrew Goostree of Banjo Bob’s Fine Pipes posted a picture of a Dunhill LB with a ruined bowl – vertical cracks all around the bowl that he was willing to part with. I quickly wrote him a note to see what he wanted for it as I had the above LB that needed the stem from his ruined bowl. We exchanged a few messages back and forth and he sent the pipe to me. It arrived in Canada yesterday (Monday) and David had included a small sample of Old Gowrie in the box.  Here are a few pictures that David sent me of the pipe before he sent it.   I took a photo of the new stem next the pipe and replacement stem and then of the two stems side by side. The look and shape is similar. I tried the stem on the shank of the LB bowl that I had and the fit was perfect in the shank. The bowl I have has a flat bottom so I would need to flatten the bottom of the stem to match the shank but other than that the fit was good. I took some photos of the fit to send to David. I had already started the shaping of the underside because I was impatient to see what it would look like. I am including those photos below so you can see the fit in the shank. I used a rasp/flat file to flatten the bottom of the stem to match the flow of the shank. I smoothed out the flattened area with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the file marks in the vulcanite.The stem had some tooth marks in the surface on both sides ahead of the button. I “painted” the surface with the flame of a Bic lighter and the tooth marks lifted. I would easily be able to sand the remnants out with micromesh. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine.     With the stem fitting work finished I put the new stem on the Dunhill LB and gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem several coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. I took photos of the LB with the stem I received from David and I really like the look of an original Dunhill stem. Have a look! I am looking forward to loading the bowl with some of the Old Gowrie that David sent along and taking it for its initial smoke. Thanks David for the stem and thank you all for reading this update.

Replacing The Military Mount Stem Of a Beautiful “Selected Briar” Billiard


Blog by Paresh

I had been procrastinating restoration work on this pipe for long, primarily for want of spares. This was one of my inherited pipes that had its horn stem completely shot!! I had been waiting for a suitable replacement stem, preferably a horn stem and so when I received my stash of around 40 vulcanite and 20 horn stems (a mix of used and new stems), this pipe moved up the queue for refurbishing.

This pipe has an old world charm about it what with its classic billiard shape and military mount horn stem. The stummel has a mix of Bird’s eye grain on the front, back and at the foot of the stummel with cross grains to the sides of the bowl. The shank has beautiful cross grains that run the entire length of the shank. It appears as if these straight grains emanates from the shank end and move up towards the bowl shank junction. It is stamped on the left side of the shank as “SELECTED” in block with letter S being larger than rest of the letters, over “Briar” in artistic hand. The shank end nickel ferrule is stamped as “EP” in a rhombus over three American faux hallmarks. The stampings are crisp and clear. The lack of COM stamp or brand name makes me believe this pipe to be a BASKET PIPE and the faux American hallmarks points to the probability of this pipe being made for the American market. The stamp “EP” stands for ELECTRO PLATED nickel ferrule as I know.

The horn stem points to the vintage of this pipe as being from prior to 1920s when vulcanite rubber gained prominence as a stem material.

The dating of this pipe as prior to 1920s is my guesstimate based primarily due to fitment of a horn stem. Any concrete and substantiated information on this pipe and its dating will be a huge learning for me and fellow readers of rebornpipes!!

Initial Visual Inspection
This pipe has the classic straight Billiard shape with a medium sized bowl. The stummel boasts of a mix of Bird’s eye grain on the front, back and at the foot of the stummel with cross grains to the side of the bowl. The shank has beautiful straight grains all round. The stummel surface is covered in a lot of dust and dirt. There are a couple of fills in the briar but that does not mean that the quality of the briar is sub standard. The carving, hands feel and appearance of the pipe, even in this condition, screams high quality and excellent craftsmanship. There is a decent layer of cake in the chamber. The stem has been cut short before and is heavily damaged with a through hole on one of the stem surface and few deep bite marks in the bite zone. Here is how the pipe appears as it sits on my work table. Detailed Visual Inspection
The chamber has an even layer of thin cake and appears to have been reamed and never smoked thereafter. The smooth rim top surface is scratched and it seems that the rim top has been scrapped to remove overflowed lava. Both the inner and the outer rim edges are beveled and appear sans damage. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be commented upon after the cake has been taken down to the bare briar. The chamber odors are mild. The draught hole is dead center and at the bottom of the chamber and that makes me believe that it should great smoke. The stummel appears solid to the touch all around and hence I do not foresee any serious damage to the walls in the form of burnout/ deep heat fissures/ lines or pits. To address the damage to the rim top, I shall top the surface on 220 grit sand paper. The reaming and subsequent cleaning of the chamber and mortise should completely eliminate the ghost smells from the chamber.The smooth stummel surface has taken on a layer of aged patina, through which one can make out the beautiful mix of Bird’s eye grain on the sides and at the foot of the stummel with cross grains to the front and back of the bowl. The shank displays tightly packed lovely cross grains that run the entire length. There are two fills in the entire stummel (encircled in yellow), one on the right side and another in the shank, adjacent to the stamping and close to the edge of the ferrule. The vintage of the pipe and years of uncared for storage has added layers of grime and dust over the stummel surface giving the briar a lifeless and bone dry look. Thorough cleaning of the stummel surface and rinsing it under warm water should highlight the grain patterns while preserving the patina. I shall refresh the fills with a mix of briar dust and superglue. The fill near the stampings on the shank will need to be worked on very carefully, if I have to preserve the stamping and which I always ensure!! It will be easy job if the ferrule can be separated from the shank end. The mortise shows accumulation of oils, tars and gunk and will need to be cleaned up. However, I have to admit that it is not as clogged as I am used to on my grandfather’s pipes. The horn stem in military mount style is completely shot!! You name an issue that a restorer is likely to come across in a stem, it is present and how!! Though personally I feel that every stem is repairable to an acceptable standard, however, in this case I feel that a stem replacement is in order to improve both the aesthetics as well as functionality of this pipe. Have a look at the pictures below to get an idea of the issues that this stem brought to the table…The Process
The first step in this restoration was to identify a suitable stem that would replace the old and chewed up horn stem. I FaceTimed with Steve and we went through the lot of horn stems that I had received. We shortlisted a straight military mount style specimen of brand new horn stem with a round orifice. It would suit the pipe both functionally and aesthetically. However, it did not have a taper and the slight belly swell that the original horn stem had. We ended the conversation with a few tips that Steve gave to help me work through this project. On a hunch, I got the slightly bent vulcanite stem that I had earmarked for another project, an early 1900s BEN WADE, and checked it out against the stummel. The extreme flare at the slot end, the taper and the size made me reconsider the horn stem that Steve and I had shortlisted. This vulcanite stem had the Castello like military mount stem and it really looked fantastic. I shared the pictures (shown below) of all the three stems, including the original and the vulcanite stem with Steve and promptly received the characteristic response from Steve, “Ohhh! The vulcanite stem looks like it was made for this pipe…I would definitely go with the vulcanite”. Decision made, the slightly bent vulcanite stem would be the one replacing the horn stem. I am definitely being ambitious to achieve Castello like shape to the stem, but there is no harm in trying!! The replacement vulcanite stem too came with its own set of damages. The stem was deeply oxidized with heavy and deep tooth indentations in the bite zone over the upper stem surface. The lower stem surface had a large chunk of vulcanite chewed off from the bite zone, including the button. The button edge on the upper stem surface is also deformed with heavy tooth indentations. The tenon has been unevenly sawed off, definitely an amateurish job, but it would save me some work nevertheless!! The stem would need to be straightened out first. The bite zone and buttons on either surfaces will have to be reconstructed and reshaped. Thereafter, the issue of seating of the stem in to the mortise will have to be dealt with. Before progressing to stem repairs proper, I decided to straighten out the stem first. I inserted a pipe cleaner through the stem prior to heating as the pipe cleaner prevents the collapse of the air way. With my heat gun, I gently heat the stem till it was pliable. I gently pressed the stem against the flat table surface and held it in place till the stem had sufficiently cooled and retained the straightened shape. I further cool it down under running cold water and set the straight shape. This heating also raised the tooth chatter and bite marks to the surface in the bite zone. The stem has been perfectly straightened out and some of the tooth chatter has been raised to the surface. The quality of vulcanite on this stem is top class.Next I inserted a triangulated index card covered in scotch tape in to the slot. The tape prevents the mix of superglue and charcoal from sticking to the index card/ seeping in to the air way and blocking it. I mixed superglue and activated charcoal powder and generously applied it over the bite zone, including over the buttons, on either surfaces of the stem and set it aside to cure. Once the fill has hardened, I shall file and sand the fills to match the surface of the stem and sharpen the button edges on either surface. I have been using CA wood superglue and this glue hardens immediately and allowed me only a few seconds of application whereas the all purpose CA superglue allowed me enough time to get an even spread over the damaged surface.   While the stem fills and repairs were curing, I worked on the stummel by reaming the chamber with size 2 PipNet reamer head. With my fabricated knife, I further scraped the chamber walls to remove the remaining carbon deposits. Once the cake was reamed back to the bare briar, I used a 150 grit sand paper followed by 220 grit sand paper to remove all the traces of remaining cake and also to smooth out the inner walls of the chamber surface. Finally, to remove the residual carbon dust, I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol. The chamber walls are sans any damage. The outer and inner rim edge is in great shape. The rim top surface itself is peppered with dents/ dings and scratches which will be addressed by topping. The ghost smells are greatly reduced and may be eliminated after the shank/ mortise are thoroughly cleaned. This was followed by cleaning the mortise with cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I scraped the walls of the mortise with my dental tool to remove the dried oils and tars. The mortise was pretty clean and it did not take too much effort and pipe cleaners to get it nice and clean.  With the bowl internals clean, I move to clean the exterior of the stummel. I used a hard bristled tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil soap to scrub the stummel and rim top. For this stummel cleaning, l I used Murphy’s Oil soap as I wanted to preserve the old patina that had developed on the stummel and was not sure how the Briar cleaner product would affect it. After the scrub with oil soap, I washed the stummel under running warm water with anti oil dish washing detergent till the stummel surface was clean and dried it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth. I simultaneously cleaned the shank internals with the detergent and hard bristled shank brush and set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. The stummel surface has cleaned up nicely with the beautiful grain patterns on full display. The ghost smells are completely eliminated and the pipe now smells fresh, odorless and clean. The shank air way is nice and open. I am sure that the pipe will turn out to be a fantastic smoker with a full wide and open drew. I also noticed that the shank has a distinct taper towards the walls of the mortise. I prefer to have my tenon as close to the walls of the mortise as possible to ensure minimum gap between the air openings and the taper on this pipe means that the military mount stem tenon end will have to be shaped so. Next I addressed the issues of the two fills in the stummel surface. With a sharp dental tool, I gouged out the fill to the right side and one at edge of the ferrule on the left side of the shank. I covered the stampings on the left side of the shank with a scotch tape to prevent the briar dust and superglue glue mix from spreading over and ruining the stampings. Using the layering method, I filled these gouges with a mix of briar dust and CA superglue till the mound of the mix was slightly above the rest of the stummel surface. This helps in a better blending of the fill with the rest of the stummel surface while sanding and reduces the scratches caused by the use of a needle file as you have a correct perspective of the sanding that is required. I set the stummel aside for the fills to cure. While the stummel fills were set aside to cure, the next afternoon, I worked on the stem fills which had cured completely. With a flat head needle file, I worked on the filling till I had achieved a rough match with the surrounding surface and had sufficiently sharpened the button edges. I further sand the fills with a piece of 180 grit sand paper to achieve a better match. I used a slot file to even out the horizontal slot edges and widen it a bit. The reconstructed button over the lower surface needed to be refilled to make the button and the slot end face even. I spread the mix of charcoal and superglue over the button edge and slot end face on either sides again and set the stem aside for the refill to cure. With further stem repairs being on hold, I turned back to the stummel repairs. Using a flat head needle file, I sand the fill till I had achieved a rough match with the surrounding stummel surface. I sand the entire stummel with a piece of 220 grit sand paper to further blend in the fills with the stummel surface. I topped the rim top surface on a piece of 220 grit sand paper, checking frequently for the progress being made as I hate to loose briar estate any more than absolutely necessary. The scratches over the rim top have now been completely addressed. The inner rim edge bevel appeared to be slightly uneven at the front and at the back end of the rim top (encircled in blue) and I decided to freshen and even out the bevel. With a folded piece of a 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and forefinger, I create a slight bevel on the inner edge of the rim top surface. I am careful so as not to alter the profile of the stummel by excessive topping or creation of the bevel. I am pretty pleased with the appearance of the rim top and edges at this stage. The following pictures show the progress being made and improvements to the inner and outer rim edges. With the stummel repairs almost complete, save for the micromesh and wax polish, I worked the stem. The fill had cured and with a flat head needle file I sand the fills and reshape the buttons. I further sand the fill and buttons with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. I am pretty happy with the way the stem repairs have shaped up and also the buttons now have a nice crisp edge to them.   I followed up the repairs to the bite zone by addressing the issues at the tenon end of the stem. I sand the tenon end over a piece of 180 grit sandpaper to a smooth and even face.  I marked the approximate length of the mortise over the stem from the tenon end with permanent marker. This would give me a reference point from where I would need to turn the tenon. I mounted a 150 grit sanding drum on to my hand held rotary tool and sand the tenon end. While sanding the tenon end, I always had the profile of the Castello stem at the back of my mind. I checked for the seating of the stem in to the mortise frequently and stopped once I had an approximate seating. I fine tuned the seating by further sanding of the tenon end with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper. When I checked the seating, I realized with a cringe that there is a substantial vertical gap (indicated with yellow arrows) between the stem and the shank end on either surface while the sides are a perfect fit. Another FaceTime consultation with Steve and we both reached a conclusion that there was no option but to rebuild the upper and lower stem surface afresh to cover the gap between the stem and shank end since other shortlisted stems would not do justice to the pipe’s complete appearance. So what followed was a tedious, laborious and time consuming process of filling with a mix of activated charcoal & superglue, curing, sanding, checking the seating and repeating the process till I achieved a snug fit of the stem in to the mortise. I have explained the entire process in just two lines, but in reality it took me 4 complete days to achieve the desired results. The pictures below will give the readers an idea of the process that was involved. At this stage of restoration, I had achieved a rough seating of the stem in to the  mortise and discerning Readers would have noticed minor gaps between the stem and shank end. I too had observed this gap but am not perturbed by this as this issue will be addressed when I fine tune the seating by sanding with higher grit sandpapers. Also, if the issue persists, I can always resort to rebuilding and readjusting as necessary.    Thereafter, again began the process of fine tuning the seating of the stem in to the mortise by sanding with 320, 600, 800 and 1000 grit sandpapers. The technique that I used is very simple; sand one side, check the seating and if the seating is not snug, sand the relevant side and continue to do so till I achieved a snug airtight fit. The closer I came to the perfect fit, the higher grit sand paper I used. A lot of patient and diligent work of 7 hours, I reached the point where I felt “no more sanding… this is the perfect seating!!”. My mantra “LESS IS MORE” was also playing at the back of my mind. I had simultaneously sanded the entire stem surface through all the above mentioned grit sand papers. I was very pleased with my efforts as I had achieved a perfect snug seating of the stem in to the mortise while being able to maintain the semblance of a Castello like stem!!To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit sandpapers. I wiped the stem with moist cloth after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil to rejuvenate the vulcanite. At the end of micromesh cycle, I polished the stem with “Before and After Fine & Extra Fine” paste. The finished stem is shown below.  For the readers to get a perspective of the stem transformation I am including the pictures below of the stem before the modifications to fit the shank were started. The gentle and seamless flare to the stem at the tenon end on both surfaces looks cool, akin to a Whale back!To check and verify the correctness of the alignment of the stem airway, the tenon opening, shank/ mortise airway and finally through the draught hole, I did the PIPE CLEANER test.  The pipe cleaner passed through cleanly and without any obstruction from the slot end right through the draught hole.With the stem repairs, transformations and micromesh polishing complete, I turned my attention back to the stummel which was yet to be polished with the micromesh grit pads. I wet sand the entire stummel with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads, wiping frequently with a moist cloth to check the progress. I really like the looks of the stummel at this point in restoration. The grain and the clean lines of this piece of briar is really appreciable. The few scratches that were noticed over the stummel surface too have been addressed at this stage. Next, I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” deep in to the briar with my finger tips and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful grain patterns displayed in their complete splendor. I further buffed it with a horse hair brush. The contrast of the dark browns of the Bird’s eye and cross grains with the natural patina of the rest of the stummel adds an interesting dimension to the appearance of the stummel. I have now reached the homestretch in this restoration project. To complete the restoration, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and polished the stummel and stem with Blue Diamond compound. This compound helps to remove the minor scratch marks that remain from the sanding.    I mounted another cotton buffing wheel that I have earmarked for carnauba wax and applied several coats of the wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. With a jeweler’s cloth, I cleaned the nickel ferrule to a nice deep shine. The finished pipe looks amazingly beautiful and is ready to join my collection. I only wish it could share with me its life story of the past years while I enjoy smoking my favorite Virginia blend in it or maybe an English blend or maybe just keep admiring it!! Big thank you to all the readers who have joined me on this path by reading this write up as I restored and completed this project.

Restemming and Restoring a Bill Lator Handmade Bent Dublin


Blog by Steve Laug

A fellow Vancouver Pipeman named Alex has been keeping me busy with working on the pipes he is picking up. He has picked up some interesting American and English made pipes. One of those is this Dublin that is engraved on the left side and underside of the shank. On the left side it reads Crafted Expressly for Roy Garrett. On the underside it reads Lator Handcrafted. It is a nice piece but has some unique features that are visible in the photos that follow. It has a sculpted/rusticated portion on the left side of the bowl and a crowned rim top. There was a thick cake in the bowl and lava overflowing onto the rim top. The rim top has some scratching and dents that will be more visible once the lava coat is gone. It appears that the edges of the bowl are in good shape – both inner and outer. The finish was very dirty with grime and oils ground into the smooth and rusticated portions. The stem did not fit well in the shank and appeared to be a replacement stem. The diameter of the stem was less than that of the bowl and left a large edge exposed on the shank end. I believe that the pipe originally had a taper stem rather than the fancy, damaged turned one that was on it when I received it. To my mind it would need to have a new stem fit to the shank. Here are some photos of the pipe when I first received it.I took a close-up photo of the rim to show the condition of the rim top and the inner edge of the bowl. The rim top had some dents and damage to it and the inner edge appeared to have some charring and darkening. The stem was an obvious replacement of necessity. It did not fit the shank and it was actually quite worn out with a chip out of the button and stem on the top side. I would need to fit a replacement.  The engraving on the left side and the underside of the shank are shown in the photos below. It reads as noted above.    I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the flow of the pipe. When I crafted a new stem for it I would work with the same angles to get the same look.When Alex dropped it off the first of the Lator pipes that he wanted me to work on I asked him to do a bit of research on the brand and see what he could find out about the pipemaker and the brand. He said he would and over the next couple of days sent me several emails with information that he had found out about the pipe. Here is a link to the first blog on the Canadian that is referred to in the following information (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/02/07/removing-an-annoying-whistle-from-a-handmade-canadian-by-bill-lator/).

The first email was the description given of the pipe on the SATX Pipes site – the company he purchased it from. They gave a pretty detailed description of the pipe and the stamping on the pipe.

This is a very rare handmade Canadian by Bill Lator. In addition, it bears the customer’s name on it that it was commissioned for. Bill Lator was a pipe maker from Indiana who operated two small pipe shops with his family. This particular Lator is in fine shape. Stem is shiny black and free from any chatter. Beautiful grain and color is offset by a sterling silver band. This is a non-filtered pipe. Pipe has been sanitized, polished and waxed, and comes ready to smoke. Pipe Dimensions: Length Overall: 6 1/8″ Height Overall: 1 3/4″ Width Overall: 1 1/4″ Chamber Width: 7/8″ Chamber Depth: 1 5/8″ Weight: 1.1 oz

Alex also sent along picture of a Magazine cover showing …Bing with a BL Canadian on the cover of a magazine.He also included an excerpt from a local newspaper article about the Lators from 1976:

Pipemaking is a family affair for the Bill Lator family. The family owns and operates “The Pipemaker,” 109 N. Broad. Father Bill, Sr. and all three sons, Paul, 28, Bill, Jr., 20 and Kurt, 14 have taken up the rare trade of pipemaking. According to Lator, there are only about 20 pipemakers in the United States. “And three of them are in Griffith,” he quipped. Lator said his pipe making started as a hobby, “a way to relax after a busy day as an executive.” Lator also began doing extensive research into pipe making going through a number of west coast libraries and learning everything he could. About a year ago, his friends started suggesting he open a pipe shop and after more urging by his son Paul, Lator moved to Griffith. The fame of his handmade briar pipes combined with the skills of his wife, Hellen, in blending pipe tobacco made the shop an instant success. Lator said his oldest son turns out artistic pipes, “he is the artist in the family-Son, Bill is the “perfectionist.” His creations have a machined perfection according to his father, “which appeals to certain customers.” The youngest, Kurt, is still an apprentice, learning the trade of pipemaking with the discards and making tampers. Mrs. Lator has gained a reputation as a master tobacco blender.

Alex sent a follow-up email and included a paragraph from Bill Lator’s obituary: “Bill was very artistic and in 1973 found he could make beautiful smoking pipes carved of briar. In 1975 he along with his 2 sons, Paul and Bill, opened The Pipemaker Pipe and Tobacco Shop in Griffith, Indiana. He loved that shop and all the customers. He made a very successful business that lasted 13 years. In 1986 he decided it was time for him to retire…”

From this I know that the pipe came from Bill Lator’s Griffith, Indiana Shop – The Pipemaker Pipe and Tobacco Shop. It had been made between 1975 and 1986 when Bill retired.

Now it was time to work on the pipe itself. I reamed the thick cake back to the walls with a PipNet pipe reamer using the first two cutting heads. I followed up – cleaning the remnants of cake on the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. The final step for me to assess the condition of the walls of the bowl is to sand it with 220 grit sandpaper on a piece of dowel. I sanded the walls smooth. I was happy with the condition of the inside walls of the chamber.  I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with a tooth brush and undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap to get the grime and debris out of the briar. I rinsed it with running water and dried it off with a towel. With that the outside was clean… progress!   I worked on the damage to the rim top to remove the darkening, charring and dents and nicks. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper and started polishing it with 400 grit sandpaper. The top is looking much better at this point.I cleaned out the shank and airway in the bowl with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and 99% isopropyl alcohol. I would do the stem once had the replacement shaped and fit.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad. The grain is really beginning to stand out and the rim top is blending in quite well.     I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. I am very happy with the results.      I set the bowl aside and went through my stems to find one that would fit well. There was a nice acrylic stem without a tenon that was the right diameter as the shank end. I took a photo of the new stem with the one that came with the pipe. I took a photo of the tenon that would work on the stem and in the shank.  I repaired the tooth marks in the acrylic with the new Black Loctite 380 Adhesive. I set the stem aside to let the repairs cure.      I glued the new tenon in place in the stem with clear super glue. The tenon looks long but it is the same length as the mortise.I used a needle file to recut the edges of the button and flatten out the repairs. I sanded them with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth them out and blend them into the surface. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.Bending this stem was a challenge! I heated it with a heat gun and was unable to bend it. I heated it in boiling water for over 5 minutes and the bend I was able to achieve was not as much as I wanted. I repeated the process multiple times and the photo below shows what I accomplished.I am not happy with the bend. It had taken a lot of work to get to this point but I did not like what I was seeing. I went back through my can of stems to find a different stem that would work better. I found one that would work, it had the correct bend  but needed to be cleaned up and polished.I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and 340 grit sandpaper paying particular attention to the tenon and the curve of the saddle stem.       I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads and wiping it down after each pad with a damp cloth.   This Lator Bent Dublin with a new fit acrylic saddle stem turned out to be a real beauty. It has a unique carved rustication on the left side of the bowl and a crowned rim top that rolls from the outer edge into the bowl. Lator really maximized the grain with the shape of the pipe. Everything about the pipe – the rustication on the side, the crowned rim top and the cut of the briar work well to highlight the shape of the bowl. I polished stem and the bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel and the finish just popped and came alive. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The pipe took on life with the buffing. The rich brown finish works well with the polished acrylic stem. The finished pipe has a rich look that is quite catching. Have a look at it with the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. The pipe will back in the box of pipes that I am working on fro Alex. I am looking forward to what he will think of this one. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another estate pipe.

Restemming and Rejuvenating a NOS Unsmoked Calabria Billiard Made by W&R Diehl Munchen, Germany


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to me from one of the estates that Jeff and I purchased in 2019. Jeff and I pick up many together at estates and on pipe hunts. Between us we pick up quite a few pipes for restoration. I try to work them into the restoration queue so that I can keep them moving. This next one is an interesting unsmoked NOS Billard bowl without a stem. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the bowl and reads Calabria in a gold stamped oval. On the right side of the bowl it is stamped Bruyere [over] Garantie. On the underside of the shank it reads W&R Diehl in an oval over Munchen. The stamping was readable and clear. The bowl was dusty and dirty but unsmoked. The rim top and edges of the bowl looked to be in good condition. When Jeff sent me photos before he purchased it I was interested in it. The bowl showed promise once it had a new stem. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started the cleanup work. He took a photo of the rim top and bowl to give a clear picture of the condition of the bowl and rim top. The top is beveled inward but it is very clean.Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to give a picture of what the briar looked like around the pipe. The grain is mixed and there are a few fills in the bowl around the sides.    He took photos of the stamping around the shank sides. It is clear and reads as noted above.  I had not heard of the brand before so I did a bit of research to see what I could find. I googled the pipe assuming the brand was W&R Diehl from Munchen, Germany. I found the following listing on Google that took me to a bagged pipe from the Wilh and Rich Diehl Company. Here is the link to the site: (https://www.sportscards.com/item/superb-rare-hand-made-wr-diehl-vintage-naturell-estate-pipe-pipa-pfeife-tuyau/163334880617/). I am including the information on the site as well as a copy of a photo with the pipe bag included.

Here we have a superb and rare vintage “Naturell” briar estate pipe in the ‘bent billiard’ style, with an excellent grain to the briar. The pipe is branded “W&R Diehl” over “Munchen” on one side of the shank, with “Made by Hand”on the reverse, and “Naturell” on the underside. It comes complete in its original “Diehl” branded pipe pouch. I believe this pipe would have been custom made for W&R Diehl (a famous Munich pipe retailer)The second site it took me to was the company website of Pfeifen Diehl in Munich, Germany (http://www.pfeifen-diehl.de/pfeifen-diehl_english/philosophy.htm). I am including a picture of the Company workshop and a few screen shots of information on the site. Jeff had cleaned up the pipe to remove the dust grit. The bowl had a coat of varnish that gave it a shine. The bowl was raw briar on the inside and was clean. Jeff polished the band on the shank and it took on rich shine.  I went through my collection of assorted stem to see what I could find that would work with the bowl. It had a slightly bigger diameter than the shank but it would work with a bit of adjustment. It was unused but the tenon had been turned previously and would still need to be turned down a bit more for a snug fit. I used a PIMO tenon turning tool to take the stem down. I did the first pass to get closer to the adjustment. The second pass cleaned it up for snug fit.   The tenon fit perfectly in the shank of the pipe. The stem was not round with decidedly more vulcanite on the top and right side of the stem. I took the top and the right side down with a Dremel and sanding drum to match the underside and the left side. Once I was finished it was round again. The fit against the shank end was perfect. It was going to look really good once I finished sanding out the scratches left behind by the Dremel.    I sanded the tooth marks and scratches out of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.   I polished the newly fitted vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.  This beautifully grained German Made W&R Diehl gold banded billiard with the newly fit taper stem is a great looking pipe. I buffed the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond on the wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished W&R Diehl Calabria Billiard fits nicely in the hand and feels great. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼   inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. If you are interested in adding this pipe to your collection send me a message or an email. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!

Restoring & Restemming a Celtic Craft Block Meerschaum from Bob Kerr’s Estate


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I have chosen from the four remaining pipes from Bob Kerr’s Estate is a Genuine Block Meerschaum with a damaged stem. This is the last of Bob’s Block Meerschaum pipes that I have to work on. (Bob’s photo is to the left). If you have not “met” the man and would like to read a bit of the history of the pipeman, his daughter has written a great tribute that is worth a read. Because I have included it in most of the restorations of the estate to date I thought that I would leave it out this time. Check out some of the recent Dunhill restoration blogs (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/01/01/restoring-the-last-of-bob-kerrs-dunhills-a-1962-dunhill-bruyere-656-f-t-bent-billiard/).

This Meerschaum is stamped Celtic [over] Craft on the left side of the shank. On the underside it is stamped Genuine Block Meerschaum. Over that on the shank end was stamp GT at the top and below the stamp read N14 which is probably the shape number. The fancy vulcanite stem is oxidized, calcified and has a large chunk missing from the underside of the button and stem. From the damage it looked to me like it needed to be replaced. The exterior of the bowl is grimy and dirty. The black flumed top was worn and tired looking on both the rim top and the shank end. There is a thick cake and lava overflow on the rim top. It is thick enough that it is hard to know if there is any damage on top and edges but it looked like there was some damage. Jeff took photos of the pipe to show its general condition before he did his cleanup.   The exterior of the pipe was very dirty – grime and grit ground in from years of use and sitting. This one was obviously one of Bob’s favourites. The rim top was covered with a coat of thick lava that overflowed the bowl. There was also some damage on the rim top and edges of the bowl. The bowl itself had a thick cake with flecks of tobacco stuck in the cake on the sides.  Jeff took photos of the sides and the heel of the bowl to give a better feel for the condition of the bowl. It is dirty but the rustication is interesting. The next photos show the stamping on the sides of the shank. The left side is clear and readable and reads as noted above. The stamping on the underside of the shank was also clear and readable as noted above. Jeff also took photos of the stem shank connection with the stem in place and the stem removed. The tenon was metal and inset in the end of the stem. The shank end was filthy and worn.  The stem was dirty and extremely oxidized, calcified and had tooth marks on both sides ahead of the button. It was missing a large chunk of vulcanite from the underside of the stem and button.   I have not heard of the Celtic Craft brand but the way it was made and the stamping style and placement on the pipe and the finish on the pipe was identical to the look and feel of the block meerschaum pipe that restored earlier – a BELT (https://rebornpipes.com/2020/06/11/restoring-a-heavily-smoked-belt-meerschaum-peterson-like-pipe/). I turned to that blog to check if it was possible that the CELTIC CRAFT pipe was made by the same company. While there was nothing definite I am convinced that it is made by the same company. I quote from that blog:

The BELT brand is not one that I am familiar with. I have never heard of the brand in my years of doing this work. I decided to pause before I started my part of the work on the pipe and see what I could learn on the web. I looked on Pipephil’s site and could find nothing listed. I did the same on Pipedia and initially found nothing either. I did a google search for the brand and low and behold the brand came up under Danish Pipe Making Companies under the heading London Meerschaum (https://pipedia.org/wiki/London_Meerschaum). I quote the brief article below as taken from Jose Manuel Lopes book.

“London Meerschaum made some pipes under the name of BELT or THE BELT, I had this confirmed by Bonds of Oxford St. who have 5 smooth bowl versions in stock at the time of writing, these look very similar to standard system full bent Peterson Meerschaums, the smooth versions have silverware stamped L&JS {Les & Dolly Wood, Ferndown} and has Belt and Genuine Block Meerschaum stamped on the bowl. I have seen 1 rusticated version with the same silverware and 2 of which I own 1, have gold plated ware with no hallmarks and are also stamped Belt and Genuine Block Meerschaum. Both smooth and rusticated have P-Lip type stems though the air hole is not on top but at the end as with most non Peterson P-Lips that I have come across. I do not know when London Meerschaum ceased trading but I can say from the one Belt that I own, it’s a very fine pipe and not cheap, well over the £100 mark when new.”

These pipes were evidently sold at least as early as the 1950’s. These may have been made by, or are affiliated with Pomeroy & Cooke Ltd., (Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks, by José Manuel Lopes).

One of the readers of that blog responded with the following information. It cleared up the information above and called the information that it was a Danish Company called London Meerschaum into question.

Jambo/Belt was based in Nothhamptonshire, a small town north of London.

In my mind it was a Manx Made African Meer and now the information trail was twisted. It is now purported to have been made in Denmark, or in Nothhamptonshire near London or on the Isle of Man. Confusing and strange provenance for this old meer but I personally lean toward the Manx Pipes Connection. Now it was time to work on the pipe itself.

With over 125 pipes to clean from Bob’s estate I took a batch of them to the states with me when I visited and left them with Jeff so he could help me out. Jeff cleaned the pipes with his usual penchant for thoroughness that I really appreciate. Once he finished he shipped them back to me. This one was a real mess and I did not know what to expect when I unwrapped it from his box. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the meerschaum and the lava on the rim top. The finish looks very good with an interesting rustic finish around the bowl and shank. Jeff scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub and soaked it in Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation on the rubber. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it looked a lot better. I took photos before I started my part of the work.  I took close up photos of the rim top and the stem surfaces. The rim top looked better but was rough. Some of the surface had been worn smooth. It was clean however and the flumed colour on the rim and shank end had faded with the cleanup work. The stem was another story all together. The metal tenon was good but the threads in the shank were worn so that it would not align. The issue for me was that the metal would continue to wear down the meer and make the fit looser over time. There were deep nicks on all the sharp edges of the diamond stem. The large chip out of the underside of the button and stem was bigger and rougher than I expected. Even though I could rebuild the damaged area I decided that the stem would need to be replaced on this one.    I took photos of the stamping on the shank of the pipe. It is readable and clear. The text reads as noted above.   I took the stem off the shank and took a photo to give a sense of the flow of the pipe. The stem is a bit of a turned freehand stem so I pretty much could use any other turned freehand stem as a replacement.I started my work on the pipe by dealing with the rim top. I used a brass bristle brush to clean up the rim top. I wanted to check out damage to the rim top so the brass bristle brush would remove any remaining grit in the rustication.I used a black stain pen to touch up the flumed top of the bowl, edges and the shank end. The rim top and shank end looked much better.   I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to replacing the stem. I went through my can of stems and found one that would look interesting with the shape of the pipe. It was a new cast stem. I would need to cut off the tenon and drill out the stem for a new tenon.I used the Dremel and sanding drum to cut off the tenon. I had a Delrin tenon that was made to screw into the stem. I found that reversing it and turning it into the shank was a perfect fit. I used a series of drill bits to drill out the end of the stem to receive the smooth end of the tenon. I used the Dremel and sanding drum to remove the excess vulcanite from the stem so that when the tenon was screwed into the shank the stem sat flush in the shank. I glued the tenon in place in the stem with clear super glue and set it aside to let the glue cure.Once the glue cured I turned the stem into the shank and took photos of the pipe as a whole. Still lots of sanding to do but I like the fit of the stem to the shank.   I cleaned up the stepped down stem area on the end of the stem with a needle file to fit in the inset shank end. I also used the file to reduce the thickness of the button. I then heated the stem with a lighter flame to soften the vulcanite. Once it was soft I bent the end of the stem to match the stem that I was replacing. I screwed the stem into the shank and took a photo of the pipe at this point in the process. I am starting to like the looks of this pipe.   I removed the stem from the shank and sanded out the file marks and shaped the button with 220 grit sandpaper and followed that with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to start the polishing.   I used a potter cutting tool to open up the slot in the end of the button. I wanted to reshape it and open it enough that a pipe cleaner would easily move through the airway.   I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.    I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth and shoe brush to raise the shine. This interestingly finished rusticated Celtic Craft Genuine Block Meerschaum Freehand/Poker from Bob Kerr’s estate looks very good. Even though it is not my personal favourite it must be a great smoking pipe. The finish cleaned up well on the pipe is in great condition and works well with the polished vulcanite taper replacement stem. I carefully buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Clapham’s Beeswax Polish and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Meerschaum fits nicely in the hand and I think the rustication will feel great when it heats up during smoking. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. If you are interested in carrying on Bob’s legacy with this pipe send me a message or an email. I have more to work on of various brands. Perhaps one of those will catch your attention. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.

Is New Life Possible for this Rough Old Custom-Bilt Billiard?


Blog by Steve Laug

Sometimes when we are caught up in the Adrenalin of a pipe hunt often sympathy for an old pipe surpasses logic. That was certainly the case with this tired and damaged old Custom-Bilt Billiard. We just picked it up and said it was going with us. Later in looking at it I wondered what we had done. The thick cake in the bowl and the fact that the pipe was filthy were not huge problems for us so ignore those. Here are just a few of the issues with the pipe. There appeared to be serious burn damage to the rim top and inner edge of the bowl. The stem was an obvious replacement which is not a problem but it appeared to be crooked. Was the issue the stem or the shank? Taking it out of the shank it was clear that the issue was both. The stem was too large and the tenon was off centre. However it was also clear that the shank had been hacked off at an angle and was not straight. There were chips of briar missing on the shank end. Fortunately it appeared that the mortise was straight and still functional. Those were just the issues I saw without spending a lot of time looking. But there was still some charm in the old pipe that made me want to try. Jeff took the pipe home with him to do his work on it. He took the following photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup. Jeff took photos of the damage to the rim top. You can see the damage on the inner edge of the bowl where there is some serious burn damage. There is also damage on the rim top itself. The rustication is filled in with lava and it is hard to see the extent of the damage.He took photo of the rustication around the sides and heel of the bowl to show both the damage and the grime ground into the bowl sides. He took a photo of the stamping on the shank side showing the Custom-Bilt stamp. It is readable but fainter toward the bottom of the stamp. The second photo below shows the fit of the stem to the shank and it is clear how it is both larger and off in terms of the fit.The next photos show the condition of the stem. I am not too concerned with it because it will need to be replaced.I turned to Pipephil (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-c8.html) to get a quick view of the brand once again. I knew that I was working with one of the older pipes and   probably made by Tracy Mincer himself. He stopped making the Custom-Bilt pipes in the early 1950s. The screen capture I included below shows a brief history of the brand.I turned to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/File:CustomBilt_Stamp1.jpg) for a quick read. The majority of the information there was two book reviews of the Custom-Bilt Story by Bill Unger. The one line I culled was the following: “Tracy Mincer started the original Custom-Bilt pipes it appears in 1934”.

I did a screen capture of the stamping that matched the stamping on the pipe that I am working on.What I learned from that is that the stamp was used by Tracy Mincer in Indianapolis in the US from 1938-1946 and possibly in Chicago before 1938 as well. So now I had a possible date for this pipe. It was an old timer and it was well worth working on.

Armed with that information I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had done a great job cleaning up the pipe as usual. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet reamer and cut back the cake back to the bare briar. He cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime from the finish. Jeff cleaned up this stem even though it would probably be replaced. He scrubbed the inside of the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with Soft Scrub and then soaked it in Before & After Deoxidizer. He washed it off with warm water to remove the deoxidizer. The pipe looked far better. I took photos of the pipe when I received it before I started working on it. You can see the misfit stem. I took a photo of the rim top to show how well it cleaned up and the damage on the front and rim top. I also took a series of photos to show the angles of the misfit stem. You can see that the fit is at an angle. The shank end is also not straight. I went through my collection of stems and found one that was the right profile and right length. I found a perfect stem that even had a turned tenon that would just need adjustment. I took some pictures of the shank end to show the cut angle of the shank. It is just slightly off not a huge amount but when a stem was against the shank it was obvious. The right side was longer than the left and the top was longer than the bottom.I used the topping board to lightly sand the shank end but it was not to be without removing more of the shank end than I wanted. The chips out of the shank end made it necessary to sand deeper. I decided to use a thin brass band that also capped the end of the shank. I coated the shank end with some all-purpose glue and pressed the band in place. I put the new stem on the shank and adjusted the band to take care of any deviation in the face of the shank. I removed the stem and set the bowl aside to let the glue cure. Once the glue on the band had cured I put the new stem in place in the shank to show the fit to the shank end. There is a lot of material to remove from the diameter of the stem at this point but the fit is perfect. I used my Dremel and sanding drum to carefully remove the excess material. I always start this process with the stem in place on the shank. I get it as close as possible to the shank size as I can without nicking the band. Once I have it close I remove the stem and finish it without the shank. The photo below is one I sent to Jeff to show him the progress. It shows the stem after the rough fitting. Lots of work still to do but you can see that it is coming along well.Now the shaping work began in earnest. I used folded 220 grit sandpaper to sand the stem and remove the scratching left behind by the Dremel and sanding drum. I also adjusted the fit to the shank by repeatedly taking photos of the fit. I have included some of those below so you can see the progress.I continued to sand the stem until all of the sanding marks from the drum were gone and the stem was smooth. I started the polishing of the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. The photos below show the stem at this point.I set the stem aside at this point and rubbed some Before & After  Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar. I worked it into the nooks and crannies of the briar with my fingertips and a horse hair shoe brush. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 10 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar came alive with the balm. When I am doing a restemming job I like to put it on the bowl and get a look at the pipe all along the way. There is something satisfying in watching the new pipe take shape. I was pleased with how the pipe was looking. I liked the flow of the stem and new shank band. It definitely was a step up from where I started. All that remains now is to finish polishing the stem and then buffing the pipe and waxing it. I was definitely getting there! I removed the stem from the bowl and set the bowl aside. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This early Tracy Mincer made Custom-Bilt billiard was an absolute disaster when we found it. I cleaned up the shank, banded it to smooth it out and made a new stem. It is a great looking pipe. The brown stain on the mixed grain shining through the rustication is quite nice. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition and the contrasting stains work well to give some contrast to the finish of the pipe. The polished black vulcanite taper stem adds to the mix. With the grime, debris and burn marks minimized from the finish the bowl it is really is eye-catching. The thin gold coloured band looks really nice on the shank. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel, carefully avoiding the stamping on the shank. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished chunky, rustic Bulldog is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that like the other pipes I am working that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another interesting pipe. This rustic Mincer Custom-Bilt Billiard will be going on the rebornpipes store shortly. Keep an eye on the American Pipe Makers section of the store. If you want to add it to your collection send me an email or a message! Thanks for your time.

I am not sure I would call this AFG III Freehand pipe anything other than ODD


Blog by Steve Laug

Jeff picked up this pipe sometime in 2016 and I have had it in a box of bowls since he sent it to me. I have looked at it several times but it never called my name. It is a strange pipe. The upwardly curved portion of the shank is joined to the bowl and straight shank about mid shank. The grain is quite nice though there is a large pit on the left side of the shank. The pipe is a sitter with a strange notched rim top. The notches have a faux plateau pattern in the groove on the front and back of the bowl. The top of the rim is almost calabash like with a wide flat top. The curve of the shank made the drilling of the bent portion a mystery until you turn the pipe over and see the screw that is inset in the back of the shank where it is parallel with the airway in the straight portion. It was lightly smoked and dirty. The shank is stamped AFG III on the left side of the upper portion. The stem was pirated from a WDC Wellington and made to fit in the shank. The shank end was out of round and the mortise was quite large. The end was not flat so fitting any stem would be a trick. Maybe that is why the Wellington stem was used. The stem had deep tooth marks in the surface and really did not work with the bowl to me. Jeff took the following photos before he did his clean up on the pipe. Jeff took photos of the bowl top to show the condition of the bowl and rim top and edges. The pipe has almost a floral look to it from this angle. It is a dirty pipe and the interior of the bowl has some roughness on the right side. He took a photo of the screw in the underside of the shank. It looks like a brass wood screw that has been inset in the shank.He took photos of the sides of the bowl and the heel to give a clear look at the grain on the briar. It is actually a nice looking piece of briar that some how the shape follows in a strange way all its own. The stamping on the left side of the shank reads AFG III which is not a brand I can find listed anywhere on the net so I have no information on the maker.The stem that had been made to fit is a WDC Wellington P-lip knockoff. It really did not fit in the shank and it was pretty chewed up. I would need to replace it.Today when I was sorting through my box of bowls without stems that I have and pitching out the worst of them I picked this bowl up and was drawn to seeing what I could do with it. I took it to my worktable and looked it over. Jeff had done a great job cleaning up the pipe as I have come to expect after 4 years of working on pipes. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet reamer and cut back the cake back to the bare briar. He cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime from the finish. He scrubbed the inside of the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. Since the stem was not going to be used he did a quick clean up on it and sent it along. I had long since thrown it in the bottom of the box of bowls. The pipe was indeed an odd one. I took photos of the pipe when I received it before I started working on it. I took a photo of the wood screw in the shank and the flaw in the briar on the topside of the shank. You can also see the joint of the bowl and shank with the upward turned shank extension in the photos below. I drew a red box around then in the photos below. I went through my cans of stems to find one that would work with the diameter of the shank. I would need to turn the tenon to make it fit and also adjust the shank end and face it to make the taper stem fit.I took a photo of the shank end to show its condition. It was not flat and it was not round. The thickness of the shank around the mortise was also different on each side. The second photo below shows that angle of the shank end.I went through my brass bands to find one that would fit the end of the shank. I smoothed out rounded end on a topping board to smooth it. I also used my Dremel and sanding drum to bring the shank end back to round. I heated the band and pressed it onto the end of the shank. It looked good and it provided a straight flat edge on the shank end that would work well with the newly turned stem. I unscrewed the wood screw from the shank and found that it actually cut off the flow of air through the shank. When it was in place it extended into the airway. I used the Dremel and a grinding stone to take the screw down so that it would end at the wall of the airway. I used some all purpose glue to anchor the screw in the shank. It could be removed with a screw driver but it also was air tight.I filled in the flaw on the left side of the shank with briar dust and super glue. When the repair cured I sanded the repair smooth again with 220 grit sandpaper and started the polishing with 400 grit sandpaper. I used the PIMO tenon turning tool on my cordless drill to reduce the diameter of the tenon and face the stem surface for a good fit on the shank.Once I had the fit right to the shank I used a heat gun to give the end a bend that matched the flow of the bowl.  I may bend it a bit more but I like it at the moment. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping the bowl down with a damp cloth after each pad. I worked over the repaired spot on the shank to blend it in more. I touched up the stain around the band edge and the repaired pit on the shank using a blend of Oak and Maple stain pens. The colour matched well and once it was buffed would be perfect.I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 10 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the newly fit stem. I did some fine tuning of the diameter of the stem at the shank/stem junction with 220 grit sandpaper and began the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I rubbed the stem down with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish – a red, gritty Tripoli like substance that is a paste. I rubbed it into the surface of the stem and polished it off with a cotton pad. I have found that is a great intermediary step before polishing with micromesh pads. I am not sure what I will use once the final tin I have is gone!I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.  This oddly shaped handmade briar pipe is strange enough to actually be quite interesting. From the shape of the extended shank to the flair of the bowl sides to the different looking top with the smooth top on the sides and the “dips” in the front and rear that are rusticated to look a bit like plateau. The mix of brown stains that the maker used really highlights some great grain around the bowl sides and the heel. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition and the contrasting stains work well to highlight the grain on the pipe. The band and the newly shaped vulcanite stem seem to work well with the pipe. The pipe is a beauty and really eye-catching in its own way. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Freehand is quite nice and feels great in the hand and is a sitter as well. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. This is not a pipe for everyone but someone is bound to love it. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 7/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. This pipe will be added to the American Pipe Makers section of the rebornpipes store soon. If you want to add it to your collection send me an email or a message! Thanks for your time.

Replacing a Broken Tenon on a Stanwell RP Freehand


Blog by Steve Laug

Yesterday a fellow pipe smoker called to say he was in front of my house and had a pipe that he had dropped while on a walk and needed a replacement tenon. He put the pipe in my mail box and I picked it up and while he was on the front side walk I chatted with him from the front porch – very much observing social distancing. The pipe was a beautiful Stanwell RP Freehand. Sure enough the tenon was stuck in the shank and snapper off just ahead of the fancy turned ball on the stem. Tenon replacements on these freehand styles are some of the easiest to do. It means that the stem end is flattened and drilled out to accommodate a new tenon. He also pointed out some road rash on the left side of the bowl where the pipe had bounced off the sidewalk. While I am not taking on new work what could I say to a previous customer standing at my gate asking for help. Of course I took the pipe in and today decided to address the broken tenon. I took pictures of the pipe to show its condition before I started. I took some photos of the shank end to show the snapped tenon in the shank and the broken end on the stem. I tried to pull the tenon with some simple tricks and it was stuck in the shank. It would not budge no matter how I tried. I put the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes to see if a change in temperature would loosen the tenon.I took the bowl out of the freezer and screwed a drywall screw into the airway in the tenon. It did not take much effort at all to wiggle it and pull out the broken tenon. I kept the piece of tenon so that I could match the replace tenon to the diameter of the broken tenon.Before moving on to make the new tenon I decided to address the road rash on the side of the bowl. I have circled it in red in the first photo below. For this application I used a wet cloth and heated the blade of a butter knife over the flame of my gas stove. I put the wet cloth over the damaged spot and when the knife became hot I touched it to the wet cloth. The heat generated steam from the wet cloth and began to lift the damaged spot. I knew that it would not come up totally as it was a rough area but I knew that I could improve the look. The second photo shows the area on the bowl side after the steam application. I enclosed the repaired damage with a red circle.The damage looked much better after the steaming, not perfect but better! I stained the upper portion of the bowl with an Oak stain pen to blend it into the rest of the surrounding briar. Once it was polished it would blend in very well.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for about ten minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I find that it also helps to blend a newly stained area into the rest of the bowl. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to replacing the tenon. I had a threaded tenon that I had started turning down to size for another pipe that would work perfectly. It is shown in the photo below next to the broken chunk of the original tenon. I would need to use a Dremel and sanding drum to finish turning the tenon portion down to match the diameter of the broken one. I would also need to reduce the diameter of the threaded tenon end because of the size of the end of the stem.I set the tenon aside and flattened the jagged portion of the broken tenon on the stem with the Dremel and sanding drum. Once it was flat I began the process of drilling out the airway to receive the new tenon. I always start with a drill bit slightly larger than the existing airway so that I do not chip of damage the stem. I don’t want create more work! I worked my way up to a ¼ inch drill bit as it was the largest one that I could get away with drilling into the stem end without damaging the external surface.I reduced the diameter of the portion of the tenon that fit in the shank and the portion that would be anchored in the stem using a Dremel and sanding drum to rough fit it. I straightened out the edges of the insert portion with a rasp and squared up the edge so that it would seat in the stem. Once I had a good fit in the stem and the shank I used slow setting super glue to anchor the new tenon in the stem. I coated the edges of the tenon and then set it in place and aligned it so that it was straight.Once the glue had cured I cleaned up the surface of the tenon so that it was not scratched with sandpaper and so that it fit well in the shank. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads.  I wiped down the stem after each pad with a damp cloth. I polished the fancy turnings on the stem and area around the new tenon with Before & After Pipe Polish (both Fine and Extra Fine) using a cotton swab to get into the grooves and angles. When I was finished I rubbed the entire stem down with the polish and buffed it with a microfibre cloth. With that the pipe is complete. I buffed it on the buffing wheel with Blue Diamond Polish and gave the entire pipe several coats of carnauba wax on the wheel. I buffed it with a clean buffing wheel and then hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe is now ready to go back to the pipe man who dropped it off Friday afternoon. I look forward to hearing what he thinks of his repaired pipe when he picks it up. Thanks for walking with me through this restoration. Cheers.

Continuing My Practice on Tenon Replacement… Working on a Connoisseur, NYC Pipe


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

Any learning consists of three phases; first is being taught, second is practice and the third phase is mastering!! Continuing on my learning curve, I wanted to practice replacing broken tenons on pipes to make them smoke worthy again.

The pipe that I chose to practice on is a free hand that boasts of straight / flame grains all around the stummel with bird’s eyes on the heel of the bowl with a plateau rim top. It is stamped on the left of the shank as “CONNOISSEUR” over “N.Y.C.”. These stampings are crisp and easily readable. There is no other stamping seen on either the stummel or the stem. This is the first time that I am working on a Connoisseur and am keen to know more about this pipe brand, carver and also dating this pipe. As is my habit, the first site that I visit is rebornpipes where, over the years, it seems like Steve has chronicled almost all the pipes that were and are in existence. True enough, Steve has restored and researched a pipe from this maker. Here is the link for a detailed information on this pipe; https://rebornpipes.com/2015/05/23/restoring-an-ed-burak-connoisseur-tall-stack/

Further down the write up, he also gives out the dating methodology adopted by Ed Burak and the same is reproduced for immediate reference.

I also learned on Pipephil’s website (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/about-en.html) that the stamping did indeed give some information that helped in identifying the period that a particular pipe was made. There I found that one may generally separate Connoisseur pipes’ date of manufacture into three periods.

From late 1960’s until 1974: no stampings
From 1974 until 1981: CONNOISSEUR over N.Y.C.
From 1981 on: CONNOISSEUR over N.Y.C. and Ed Burak’s signature.

Thus from the above information, it’s evident that this beautiful Connoisseur pipe in my hand is from the period 1974 to 1981!

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The first and foremost issue that I noticed and was aware of from the description given by the seller is that of the broken tenon. When I saw the pictures of this pipe for the first time, I had observed, apart from the most obvious broken tenon a number of other issues which presented a challenge of their own. The briar was natural and unstained. It had darkened slightly with age. This was how the pipe had reached me…discerning readers will easily make out other major issues that need to be addressed on this pipe. The chamber has a thick uneven layer of dry and hard cake with the inner rim edge showing darkening in 6 o’clock direction (marked in yellow). The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be checked and ascertained only after the cake has been taken down to the bare briar. However, I do not envision any damage to the chamber walls. There is heavy lava overflow and debris embedded in the plateau of the rim top surface. The condition of the inner rim edge will be commented upon once the lava overflow has been removed. There are very strong and all pervading smells of old tobacco emanating from the chamber. Hopefully this issue should be addressed once the cake has been removed and the mortise is thoroughly cleaned. The stummel boasts of beautiful straight/flame grain all around and extend over the shank surface too!! The surface is covered in lava overflow, dirt and grime. The stummel briar is without a single fill and through all the dirt and grime, exudes a very high quality briar and craftsmanship. The foot of the stummel shows beautiful bird’s eye grains and is sans any damage. The slightly tapered end of the shank has the broken end of the tenon still embedded within. A prominent crack is visible over the shank on the right side. This pipe, in all probability, has suffered this catastrophic damage as a result of having fallen in stem down position. The mortise has the broken tenon stuck inside. I did try to wriggle it out with a screw driver, but the broken tenon wouldn’t budge. This will require more invasive technique. The heavy build up of cake in the chamber, dirty plateau rim top and the sorry condition of the stem all point towards a clogged mortise. This will be ascertained once the broken piece is removed from the shank end.The fancy stem has blobs of sticky oils and tars on both the surfaces as well as in between the nooks and crannies at the tenon end. There are significant tooth indentations on both the upper and lower buttons, to the extent that they would need to be rebuild completely. The slot just does not appear correct. It appears to be a orifice, but it is not a perfect round and  there are horizontal extensions on either side. Even this opening is clogged with old oils and tars. The broken tenon end of the stem is jagged and sharp at the place where the tenon has snapped. In my opinion, there is something which is not right about this stem. The quality of the stem is not something which is to be expected on a Connoisseur pipe. THE PROCESS
I began the process of refurbishing this pipe with cleaning the internals of the stem using pipe cleaners with isopropyl alcohol (99.9% pure) and dunking the stem in to “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution developed by my friend Mark Hoover. The solution helps to draw out heavy oxidation to the surface making its removal a breeze, while the minor oxidation is eliminated to a very great extent. I usually dunk stems of 5-7 pipes that are in-line for restoration and this pipe is marked in pastel blue arrow. I generally allow the stems to soak in this solution overnight for it to work its magic.With the stem soaking in the deoxidizer solution, I decided to remove the broken portion of the tenon from the shank. I select a drill bit that was slightly bigger than the tenon airway opening and mount it on my hand held drill. Very gently holding the drill absolutely straight, I give the drill machine a few forward turns. Once the drill bit is firmly embedded in to the broken tenon, I turn the drill machine in reverse. The reverse turns pull the broken end of the tenon out from the mortise. I breathe a sigh of relief as this is a very delicate step and a lot of things can go wrong if not executed with precision and patience. I further work the stummel, reaming the chamber with my PipNet reamer using head sizes 1 to 3. Using my fabricated knife, I further ream out the cake from places where the PipNet reamer could not reach and follow it with sanding the chamber walls with a 220 grit sand paper. I wipe the chamber with isopropyl alcohol and a cotton swab to remove all the carbon dust. This final cleaning of the chamber reveals a minor indentation in the wall opposite the draught hole, a result of over enthusiastic use of pipe cleaners to clean the mortise (marked in yellow semi- circle)!! Though not a major issue now, one will have to be careful with using pipe cleaners in future. Next, I clean the mortise with hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I scrub the external surface of the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and hard bristled tooth brush and dry it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth. I carefully clean the plateau rim top with a soft brass wire brush to remove the accumulated dirt and debris from the surface. Thereafter, I clean the mortise, plateau rim top and stummel surface with anti-oil dish washing soap on a shank brush and a tooth brush. The entire stummel, including the plateau rim top, cleans up nicely. I set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. The smells from the pipe, though reduced, are still very strong. Close observation of the stummel reveals the culprit to be the now moistened accumulated gunk in the mortise. Using my dental tools, I assiduously pick out and clean the mortise of all the gunk. I also clean the mortise with q-tips and alcohol. The amount of old grime that is scraped out from the mortise itself tells the story. The mortise is now clean and smells fresh.Moving ahead, I now address the crack that is seen on the right side of the shank, extending from the shank end to nearly half distance towards the stummel. Firstly, I clean off all the debris that is lodged in the crack using dental floss. The thin floss cleans the crack of all the dirt without widening it.I follow up this cleaning of the crack by marking the end points and turning points of the crack with a sharp dental pick. These marks help to guide the drill bit when drilling the counter hole. I take care that the drill is just sufficiently deep enough to arrest the further spread of the crack and not a through hole.I fill this crack with a mix of CA superglue and briar dust. To ensure a tight fill I clamp it down with pliers till the mix had cured, which by the way, is instantaneous!! Once the repair has cured for couple of hours, I sand it down with a flat needle file to achieve a rough match with the rest of the stummel surface. I fine tune the match with  220, 400 and 600 grit sand paper.To further stabilize the crack and prevent it from splitting again, I decide to place a band over the shank end. I select a band that is a tad bit smaller than the shank end diameter. When I place this band over the shank end, I realize that the last two letters of the stamping are being masked. I decide on grinding away the excess material from the band with my sanding drum mounted on a hand held rotary tool to a size which while being appropriate to stabilize the crack will not mask the stampings. The process is long and fraught with mistakes… The band has flown out of my hands a few times, since it can not withstand the stress of the sanding drum and is deformed , not to mention the time factor involved. However, through all these difficulties, I have prevailed to shape a band for the shank end. This is the pictorial depiction of the process and the result. Once I am satisfied with the fit, I heat the band with a heat gun in order to expand it and fix it over the shank end. I have avoided gluing it securely in place just in case I may have to revisit the entire process and go for a fresh band. Here is how the band fits over the shank end. Truth be told, I am not very confident that the band would be a success given the fitting of the band over the shank end. I set the stummel aside and decide to replace the tenon on the stem. I have explained in great detail the procedure that I have learnt and followed while replacing the tenon on a Preben Holm # 7 FH pipe. To avoid repetition of the process, I would request all to refer to the write up and other literature on the subject that is available on rebornpipes.

Given below are a series of sequential pictures explaining the procedure. Here I would also like to note that as I had mentioned earlier, the quality of the stem appeared circumspect and this was corroborated while drilling the stem air way to accommodate the new tenon. The plastic or some such low quality of the stem did pose a lot of resistance during the drilling and a straight drill was very difficult. However, my persistence has paid off and I am happy with the replaced tenon. Once the tenon is replaced, I try the fit of the stem in to the mortise. The fit though snug, reveals gaps and the seating of the stem in to the mortise is not flush. No amount of tweaking and minor adjustment by sanding of the tenon can ensure a flush seating. I feel that I have botched up the banding of the shank end and that is what has caused this issue. Here is how the seating appears after all the adjustments and tweaking. At this point in restoration, I shared pictures of this issue and then later in the day had a FaceTime chat with my Guru, Steve. Steve, with his vast experience and having worked on and researched a Connoisseur pipe before, immediately commented that the stem is not the right style for Connoisseur pipes and could be a replacement stem. I have another Connoisseur pipe (which awaits restoration) with a saddle stem in my collection and when the stem of this freehand was compared, it was no where near the quality that was seen on the other saddle stem. The pictures below show the difference in quality of the stem material and finish between the two pipes. Thereafter we discussed the shank band and he suggested to reband the shank end while going in for a completely new stem. Thereafter, we went through my can of spare stems and selected one that would be the best match for this pipe. Here are the pictures of the shortlisted stem. The slightly bent stem with all the calcification is the one that would replace the one that the pipe came with. The shortlisted stem, I am afraid, is not in the best of condition. The tapered slightly bent vulcanite stem is nearly the same length as the replaced one while being very thick at the tenon end. The quality of the re-replacement stem is very good. The stem is heavily oxidized with significant calcium deposition and deep tooth indentations in the bite zone on either surfaces of the stem. A couple of deep chips are seen along the seam on either sides as well as on the lower and upper surfaces of the stem. The button surfaces on either side has bite marks and the edges are equally damaged and deformed. The tenon and the horizontal slot shows heavy accumulation of oils, tars and gunk. All in all, the refurbishing and shaping of this stem presents a ton of effort and time.I begin the refurbishing and reshaping of the stem by first cleaning the stem, both internally and externally. With my fabricated knife and a paper cutter, I remove the entire calcium sediments from the bite zone. Using a dental tool, I dislodge all the dried oils and tars from the tenon and slot end. I clean the stem internals with pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I sand the entire stem surface with a folded piece of 150 grit sand paper to remove some oxidation as well as to even out some tooth chatter from the bite zone. Once the initial cleaning is done, I move ahead for shaping/sizing the stem. The tenon is too thick for the mortise and that is my start point. I mount a sanding drum on to my hand held rotary tool and sand the tenon till I achieve a rough fit in to the mortise. During the entire process, I frequently check the progress being made as I do not want to sand too much material from the tenon, making for a loose fit.I fine tune the fit of the tenon in to the mortise by hand sanding with flat head needle file and 180 grit followed by a 220 grit sand paper. The tenon attachment with the stem is shaped with a triangular needle file. I check the seating of the stem in to the mortise after I remove the shank band. The stem fit is nice and snug. Before I move to the final fit and shaping of the stem, I decide to reband the shank end. This time I select a band that was a snug fit as against a size smaller as I have done earlier. To reduce the thickness of the band, this time I manually sand it over a 150 grit sand paper instead of using my rotary tool and a sanding drum. It does take a long time, but the end result is much better. The last letter “R” has been masked, but I shall deal with it later (will I…?). I still have not glued the band in place, just to be on the safer side!!Now with the band in place, I move ahead with shaping and aligning the stem. The first thing that I proceed to do is to shave of the excess meat from the shoulders at the tenon end. Readers, when I say excess, please be aware that the word excess does not convey the quantum of excess… It  was hell of a lot of material to shave off!! I mount a 150 grit sanding drum on to the rotary tool and go to town sanding off the material from the shoulders of the stem. Once I have achieved a rough match, I use a flat head needle file to further match the fit. I progress to manual sanding with a 180 grit sand paper to fine tune the match. This is how the stem profile matches with the shank end of the stummel…not quite there but getting close. I feel that the mid region of the stem needs to be trimmed a bit and do so with a flat head needle file and a 180 grit sand paper. Here is where I have reached at this stage. Truth be told, eye balling the shape is not the easiest way to achieve the exact shape since I am always seeing it, shaping it and matching it. It’s something akin to optical illusion that I am experiencing. There is a bit of overhang at the shoulders of the stem and I need to shave off some more material from the area above it. Also a slight gap is seen at the lower end and on the left side of the stem that needs to be addressed. I decide to take a break from all the sanding of the stem and move on to shaping the stem to match the profile of the stummel. I insert a pipe cleaner through the stem’s air way to prevent it from collapsing once the stem is heated. I first straightened the stem by heating it with a heat gun. To impart the requisite bend, I try to adopt the technique that my friend, Dal Stanton of PipeSteward fame, uses and that is to draw a diagram marked with the plane of the stummel rim top, a parallel plane that is required, the present profile of the stem and thereafter, the exact place and shape of the bend that is needed. Well, it is an attempt that I made, but ended up eye balling the exact bend to be imparted. I heat the stem with my heat gun till the vulcanite becomes pliable and gives it the necessary bend. I hold it in place till the stem had cooled down a bit and thereafter, hold the stem under cold water for the bend to set. The next issue that is addressed is of the stem repairs. I insert a triangle shaped index card covered in transparent tape in to the slot. The tape prevents the mix of superglue and charcoal from sticking to the index card. I mix superglue and activated charcoal powder and generously apply it over the bite zone, including over the button. I also fill the couple of deep chips along the seam on either sides as well as on the lower and upper surfaces of the stem with the charcoal mix and set it aside to cure. Once the mix has cured, I remove the index card from the slot. While the stem fill is set aside to cure, I polish the stummel with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 pads. This time around, I do not repeat the mistake of polishing the plateau rim top as I had done with the PH # 3 earlier! I wipe the surface with a soft cloth at the end of the micromesh cycle. The stummel looks amazing with a deep shine and beautiful straight grains popping over the stummel surface. I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar. I rub this balm deep in to the nooks and crannies of the plateau rim top surface with my fingers and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the dark brown hues of the grain contrasting with the rest of the stummel surface. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. The appearance of the stummel at this stage motivates me further to complete this project at the earliest. I set the stummel aside and all that remains was to shape, align and polish the stem! Now motivated with the appearance of the stummel, I turn my attention to the stem repair. The fills have cured nicely and I move ahead and began the process of filing and shaping the button end with a flat head needle file. At this stage, I get in touch with Steve on Face Time and discuss the progress on the stem. He suggests that a slightly sharper bend to the stem from near the bite zone would accentuate the shape and flow of the shank with that of the stem. He also suggests that the profile of the stem near the shoulder and mid region needs to be more slender. So, it is back to heating the end of the stem with the heat gun and giving it the desired bend, of course, eyeballing it to the desired shape!As discussed with Steve, with a flat needle file, I shave off some more vulcanite from the shoulder and the mid region of the stem. I further sand the stem with 220, 320, 400, 600, 800 grit sand papers and finally with 0000 grade steel wool. I wipe the stem with a cotton pad dipped in alcohol to remove the resultant dust and rub some extra virgin olive oil onto the stem and set it aside to be absorbed.I polish the stem with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. I rub a little extra virgin olive oil in to the stem at the end of the micromesh pads polishing cycle. I complete the polishing regime of the stem by rubbing a small quantity of Extra Fine Stem polish developed by my friend Mark Hoover, and giving it a final polish with a soft cotton cloth. The stem is now nice, smooth and shiny.To apply the finishing touches, I first mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and apply a coat of Blue Diamond to the stummel and the stem to polish out the minor scratches. Boy, am I glad to finally have reached the home run stretch to complete this project!! I shared these images with Steve for his comment. He suggested that the shoulder overhang needs to be reduced and under belly to be straightened out more.Well, here I was back with a flat needle file and 220 grit sand papers as against carnauba wax and rotary tool!! I again diligently worked on these issues, frequently checking for progress being made. Once I am satisfied that the shoulder overhangs and under belly issues have been resolved, I check the seating of the stem in to the mortise. The seating is canted backwards. I address this issue by heating the tenon and slightly pushing it upwards (that is, in the opposite direction). I check the seating and am quite pleased by the overall appearance of the stem and its seating. Thereafter, I go through the entire regime of sanding and polishing as explained above. At the end of the micromesh pads, I complete the polishing regime of the stem by rubbing a small quantity of Extra Fine Stem polish developed by my friend Mark Hoover, and giving it a final polish with a soft cotton cloth. The stem is now nice, smooth and shiny. With a cotton buffing wheel that I use for carnauba wax, I apply a coat of carnauba wax to the stummel and stem and continue to work on it till the complete coat of wax is polished out. I mount a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel and give the entire pipe a once over buff. I finish the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine further. The finished pipe is shown below. P.S. – This project was more tedious than I had anticipated, mostly because of my own faults and errors in judgement.  But then, isn’t this the fun part of being of the learning curve? I shall be avoiding the following in my future restorations:

(a) Using a band that is a tad smaller then the shank end diameter. I would rather use a band that has a snug and perfect fit over the shank end.

(b) Using a rotary tool with a sanding drum to get the band to the desired size. It’s better, safer and precise to manually sand the band on a sand paper.

(c) Clamping the shank end after filling a crack. I am not sure, but I think that the clamping down may have caused a slight deformation that had caused me such grief with the seating of the stem.

(d) Less reliance on “eye balling” for sizing and shaping…need to get on with hunting for a “PIMO TENON TURNING TOOL” and a set of “VERNIER CALIPERS”.

I am really fortunate to be in the process of learning the nuances of pipe restoration and cannot thank Steve enough for his support and guidance.

Thanks for your patience and looking forward to input about the write up. Cheers…