Tag Archives: Polishing a pipe with a Dremel

French Made Bruyere Garantie Bent Billiard from Burgas

Blog by Dal Stanton

I received Gary’s email when he and his wife were visiting the Bulgarian city of Burgas on the Black Sea coast. Ever since I started restoring pipes, Gary, my colleague living and working in Plovdiv, has kept his eyes open during his travels. He’s found some very nice pipes for me. The two he found at the antique shop on the main walking street in Burgas were possibilities so he landed them for me. The larger bent billiard in the pictures he sent is on my work table now. I chose it because I’m hoping for a project that doesn’t appear to be in too much need!The only marking on the pipe is stamped on the left shank and it says, “BRUYERE” over “GARANTIE” which I’ve understood as a rather generic marking used by several manufacturers from different continental countries in Europe.  On a hunch, I looked up the generic marking in Wilczak and Colwell’s manual, “Who Made That Pipe?” and was surprised to find a semi specific listing: UNK France.  With an ‘unknown’ maker, but because of the spelling, they identify the French origins.  Odds are, if from France, then most likely the place of origin is Saint-Claude.  After receiving the pipes from Gary, I put the French made, 3/4 Bent Billiard on my work table in Sofia, and take these pictures to fill in the gaps. The grain on this larger stummel is outstanding – much motion and flow.  Standing out is the bull’s eye wraparound knot grain perfectly situated to highlight the elbow where shank and stummel meet and blend (pictured above).  The stummel surface has several dents and some cuts from normal wear and grime collection.  The rim has some oil residues but like the stummel surface, has its share of normal wear dents.  The cake in the chamber is very light and the remnants of the last smoke are still evident – a blend of sorts (pictured below)!  The stem shows light oxidation and tooth chatter primarily on the lower bit.  The button and slot look good.  To start the restoration and cleanup of the Bruyere Garantie Bent Billiard, after inserting a pipe cleaner through the stem, I put the stem in the Oxi-Clean solution to soak, working on the oxidation.  With stummel in hand, I clean out the old tobacco from the chamber with the pipe nail tool.With the Pipnet kit, I ream the cake to the briar for a fresh start.  I use the two smaller of the 4 blades available in the kit and follow this by using the Savinelli pipe knife to fine tune the ream by strategically scraping the chamber wall.  To clean the chamber wall, I wrap 240 grit paper around a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber and then use a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to remove the carbon dust.  Looking at the cleaned chamber, it looks good. With the chamber finished, I turn to cleaning the internals of the stummel with cotton swabs and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  It does not take long and pipe cleaners and swabs are coming out clean. Now turning to the cleanup of the surface of the stummel, I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap with cotton pads and a bristled toothbrush to clean the grime off the briar surface.  Murphy’s does a good job cleaning wood of grime and old finish.  I rinse the stummel with tap water careful not to flood the internals with water.  I inspect the rim and surface with things cleaned up and take some close-ups of dents and marks showing signs of wear – a well-smoked and liked pipe.  The pictures show the cleaning and surface inspection. To address the stummel rim and surface, I use a medium grade sanding sponge to remove as many of the imperfections as possible.  I use this sanding sponge to perform a gentle topping of the rim to remove the dents.  I follow with a light grade sanding sponge and I also freshen the internal rim bevel using first 240 grit paper followed by 600.  The clear majority of the nicks and dents have been removed.  Those that remain will be an ongoing testimony of the years this pipe has spent serving his steward! The pictures show the progress. I’m ready now to fine-tune the stummel by sanding with micromesh pads 1500 to 1200.  I first wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400.  After completing the wet sanding, I detect some fills that have softened.  This probably resulted from the water on the stummel and the fill material was only water based.  Two were on the rim and a few more on the side of the stummel.  Using a sharp dental probe, I dig out the old fill that at this point has the texture of wet clay.  Pictured is the completion of the first 3 micromesh pads and the beginning of a small detour – such as life!  The detour requires that I mix briar dust and super glue to make a more durable fill than what I just removed.  After filling the holes, I’ll then need strategically to re-sand the patches and return to the micromesh pads.  While I’m at it, I detect a few more fills and clean them out.  These ‘factory fills’ are normal and reveal that one seldom finds a perfect block of briar without some imperfections.  The most challenging patch will be the rim.  I begin by wetting a cotton pad with isopropyl 95% and wipe down the stummel – I want it clean and free of residue fill material.  I then use a pipe nail and scoop out an enough briar dust on an index card that serves as my mixing pallet.  I then add a small puddle of regular superglue next to the briar dust and use a toothpick to begin mixing the putty by drawing dust into the puddle of glue.  When the consistency of the putty is about like molasses, I use a flat dental spatula to apply the briar dust putty to the holes.  I leave excess putty over each patch in anticipation of sanding it down flush to the briar surface.  I use an accelerator spray to shorten the curing time for the patches.  It takes me two batches to fill the holes.  The pictures show the progress. I decide to let the stummel rest a bit as the patches cure and work on the stem.  I remove the stem from the Oxi-Clean bath that it’s been soaking in for several hours.  The oxidation has ‘surfaced’ on the vulcanite stem and I use 600 grit paper and wet sand the stem to remove the oxidation after remounting the stem and stummel with the plastic disc separator.  This helps avoid shouldering the stem.  After completing the sweep with 600 grit, I look at the lower bit where there was tooth chatter and some dents.  I use 240 grit paper to sand these out.  One dent was refusing so I dropped a bit of Black CA glue on it and applied some accelerator spray to cure it quickly.  After a bit, I returned to the patch with 240 grit paper to smooth it and blend it with the vulcanite.  I follow using 600 grit sanding paper and then finish this phase by buffing the entire stem with 0000 steel wool.  The pictures show the progress. With the stem in front of me, I decide to move it to the micromesh phase.  Using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stem. When I complete this first cycle I realize that I forgot the clean the internals of the stem!  Call me anxious….  Holding the stem with paper towel, I gingerly use pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol 95% and then with cotton swabs I clean out the filter cavity.  Thankfully, the stem was in pretty good shape.  Back to the micromesh process.  I follow this by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  I follow each cycle of 3 pads with an application of Obsidian Oil which deepens the color and revitalizes the vulcanite.  The pictures show the progress – looking good! With the stem restoration complete, I turn to the stummel again.  I use a flat needle file to begin the process of bringing the excess briar dust putty down to the briar surface.  I start with the rim patches and move around the stummel.  After using the flat needle file, I use 240 grit paper on each patch to bring it down to the surface.  I finish the sanding and blending with 600 grit paper.  At this point, I notice some air pockets in some of the patches.  I spot drop a small bit of superglue in each and spray it with accelerator.  After a few minutes, I sand down the superglue fills very quickly with the flat needle file, then 240, then 600.  I take pictures along the way. With my day ending, I want to clean the stummel internals further using a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I fill the stummel with kosher salt and I cover the bowl and give it a shake to displace the salt.  I use kosher salt and not iodized salt as it does not leave an iodine aftertaste.  I stretch/twist a cotton ball and feed it into the mortise acting as a wick to draw out the oils during the soak.  I situate the stummel in an egg carton and using a large squeeze dropper, I fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until filled.  I wait a few minutes as the alcohol is quickly drawn down.  I top it off again with alcohol.  I turn out the lights – another day complete. The next morning, the kosher salt and alcohol soak did its job.  The salt and cotton wick are discolored indicating a not too dirty stummel giving up more gunk.  I thumped the stummel on my palm (not table!) and the expended salt goes into the waste.  I wipe the chamber with a paper towel and run bristle brushes of differing sizes in the chamber, through the mortise and draft hole to remove all the salt.  It’s looking good and the new steward of this Bent Billiard will enjoy a sweeter taste as a result.  To get a bird’s eye view of the project, I rejoin the finished stem with the now patched stummel.  The more I study the grain on this pipe, the more I like it – especially the lower horizontal grain encompassing the stummel’s heel then transitioning through the elbow of the shank merger.  A very pleasing visual as one cradles the ample Billiard bowl in his (or her!) palm. Imagination aside, time to get back to the stummel micromesh process.  Since I  had already completed the first 3 micromesh pads, I wet sand with these again, but focus on the rim and stummel patched areas.  After wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, I apply a stain stick to the patch on the stummel.  Because of the sanding, this area is lighter than the surrounding patch of briar.  I apply some stain, let it dry, and wipe it with a bit of alcohol on a cotton pad to blend.  Then, I continue with dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then finishing with pads 6000 to 12000.  I am amazed at how a natural grain can achieve such a gloss through this process – wax is not needed!  To me, the difference between the character of this gloss and the ‘gloss’ of an acrylic finish is the difference between a high-end HD flat screen and a so, so TV – color, but not the same sharpness or reality.  When one looks at grain through an acrylic finish, you’re looking through a film creating the shine not the grain itself, as is with a natural grain gloss – the real deal.  The stains we apply then, do not create a film over the wood but colors it to help hide imperfections, etc., – a big difference.  The pictures show the source of my amazement and reflections. With the micromesh pad cycles completed, I confer with my wife about the finish.  Yes, I often ask my wife’s opinion at this point because of her eye for beauty and colors.  Originally, I had been thinking of keeping with the original color bent – toward more reddish tones.  After our conference, because of the beauty of this grain as is, I will stay with brown, leather tones consistent with the natural grain.  I had avoided the nomenclature during the sanding processes and there was still residue of the older color.  I use acetone (yes, the yellow label is acetone in Bulgarian!) with a cotton pad and work on removing the reddish finish.  I’m not totally successful, but I don’t think what is left will make a difference. To stay in the brown/leather tones, I decide to mix 3 parts Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye with 1 part alcohol with a large bulb dropper.  I want the finish on the darker brown side to blend the briar dust putty patches, but light enough so that the grain is showcased.  To prepare the stummel, I first wipe it down with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean the surface.  After mounting a narrowed cork into the shank as a handle, I warm the stummel with a heat gun to expand and open the briar allowing it to absorb the dye more efficiently.  I then liberally apply the dye mixture to the stummel with a folded pipe cleaner seeking full coverage.  With a lit candle, I then ‘fire’ the stummel, igniting the alcohol in the dye which sets the stain.  After a few minutes, I repeat the process concluding with firing the stummel.  I then put the stummel aside to rest for several hours before continuing.  The pictures show the progress. After several hours, I’m ready to unwrap the crust encasing the stummel resulting from the fired dye.  I mount a felt buffing wheel on the Dremel, set the speed of the Dremel at the lowest, and use Tripoli compound’s abrasive characteristic to remove the crust.  I first purge the wheel with a tightening wrench, to remove old compound and to soften the felt wheel.  I rotate the felt buffing wheel over the surface without a lot of downward pressure.  The speed of the Dremel and the compound do the work.  To reach the difficult angle between the shank and bowl, I switch to a smaller felt wheel.  After finishing with the Tripoli compound, I wet a cotton cloth with alcohol and wipe down the stummel to both lighten the aniline stain and to blend it.  Following this, I switch to a cloth buffing wheel and turn the speed up from 1 to 2, approximately 40% of full speed, the fastest being 5, and apply Blue Diamond compound in the same manner as the Tripoli.  I notice a few bright spots on the surface as well as around the nomenclature where the stain did not set consistently.  I applied a bit of black Fine Point Sharpie Pen and darker stain sticks to blend the areas.  I go over these areas again with the Blue Diamond buffing wheel to blend the spot staining.  It looks good. I then buff the stummel with a flannel cloth to clean it of compound dust before applying the carnauba wax.  Switching to another cotton cloth buffing wheel dedicated to carnauba wax, I reattach the stem to the stummel and apply the wax at the same 40% speed.  I apply 2 cycles of carnauba to the surface and stem, then I switch to a clean Dremel buffing wheel and buff the pipe yet again.  Finally, I give the pipe a rigorous hand-buffing with a micromesh cloth.

This French, probably Saint-Claude, made Bruyere Garantie Bent Billiard is stunning – the grain is beautiful.  As I mentioned before, I am drawn to the heel of the stummel, at the elbow where stummel and stem meet – the knot grain perfectly situated there is amazing and says something about the eyes and judgment of the pipe maker who chose the briar block and could see what it would become.  I’m very pleased with the results of this pipe.  If you would like to adopt this classic Bent Billiard, look at my store front at The Pipe Steward.  The sale of pipes benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria, an organization we work with helping women (and their children) who have been sexually exploited and trafficked.  Thanks for joining me!  


A Pre-Republic Peterson System Standard Reborn

A month or so ago I was trolling eBay and ran across what I thought might be a Pre-Republic Peterson System 313.  I am not very learned in the different eras of many pipe companies but was fairly certain if I read the no-so-clear nomenclature right this was indeed a Pre-Republic era Peterson. Here are the photos the seller provided:

The pipe looked to be in pretty good shape so I thought I would take a shot at it. The seller had a Buy It Now or best offer price on it so I submitted my offer and went to do some research on the nomenclature in case my offer was accepted.After searching on Pipepedia and Pipephil I was sure that the pipe was indeed a Pre-Republic model. (The following photo shows the nomenclature and the small defect in the briar that probably kept it from being a higher grade pipe. The stamping reads “Made” on the top of the circle, “Ireland” in the bottom, and “in” in the center. These photos were taken by me after the restoration.)

A few hours later I received a counteroffer from the seller which I accepted. The seller was in Peru so now it was time for the dreaded wait.

When the pipe finally arrived I was eager to tear into the box to see what I had! When I took the pipe out of the protective wrapping my first thought was “Wow, this thing is tiny!”. I have one over System pipe that is an XL315, a pretty large pipe. I didn’t realize the 313 was going to be comparatively diminutive in size! I was pleased to see that the nomenclature was stronger than I expected it to be and that the pipe was in pretty well as-shown condition; there was a deep burn on the front, inside of the bowl that I didn’t make out in the photos. Here are a few pictures I took upon getting the pipe unpacked.

I dropped the stem in a warm Oxiclean bath while I began to clean the dirt and grime from the stummel. As I removed years worth of crud with cotton pads and both alcohol and acetone I began to really like what I was seeing! There were a few issues showing up now, but not anything too major: the rim cleaned up well but was burned worse than I thought, the nickle band had loosened over time and move up a little and was stained with tars (I think). All of these things were in my mind a good trade-off for the better than expected stamping though.

When I took the stem from the Oxiclean bath I scrubbed it down with a magic eraser to take off the loosened oxidation. Here’s what the pipe looked like at his stage; you can see the line where the band has moved over time.img_0207It was now time to start cleaning the internals of both the stem and stummel.

As I mentioned, this pipe has a rather small bowl; my smallest cutter on my PipNet set wouldn’t fit inside the bowl to ream it! The cake was hard but not terribly thick so I used the blade on my Sheffield pipe tool and some 320 wet/dry paper to ream back to bare briar. while I was doing the reaming I found was the burn on the rim was soft and would require more than just topping it. I decided to finish the internals before turning my attention to this problem.

I took a cotton swab soaked in alcohol and ran it through the stem; the P-Lip stem has a graduated airway, starting out very open and narrowing as it get closer to the button. As I turned the stem over to scrub the inside with the cotton swab a horrible goo ran out of the P-Lip!img_0200Needless to say, the pile of cotton swabs and pipe cleaners were only a representative sample of what it took to get the stem clean. And the well/mortise and airway of the pipe was equally nasty’ I really hadn’t expected this given the maintained cake in the bowl. I stuffed a cotton ball in the bowl and a cotton swab in the air hole, filled the bowl with alcohol and left it to sit over night. I completed cleaning inside the stem before going to bed.

The next day I removed the tar-stained cotton ball and swab from the stummel and  began to work on the burned rim issue after the pipe had dried an hour or two. I began by topping the bowl with 320 wet/dry sandpaper, checking my progress often. There was another smaller darkened area I wanted to remove, too, if I could, but I didn’t want to remove more briar than I had to.When the smaller spot was gone and the worse spot was improved I wiped the bowl down with alcohol to clean any remaining dust from it’s surface and began to polish it with micro mesh. I got up to about 2400, I think, and decided the burn was still too noticeable. I went back to work on the rim with a folded piece of 320 grit paper and worked a bevel on the inner edge of the bowl, then repeated polishing with micro mesh as before. The results were much better to my eye.

I moved on to the stem now, setting the bowl aside for later. The stem wasn’t in particularly bad shape, mostly just oxidized, as some of the previous photos show.There was a couple of deeper tooth marks on the bottom and top near the button that had to be filled. I sanded the oxidation off using 320 grit paper then cleaned the stem well with alcohol on a cotton pad. I picked at the deepest dents and the button “steps” with a small “toothpick” knife I have to make sure all the oxidation was out of the dents and grooves. After giving the areas a spray of CA glue accelerator I applied clear CA glue to both spots, gave it another spray and then let it sit a few hours to cure well; I didn’t want the glue to run while it cured or I might have skipped the accelerator altogether. (I didn’t remember to take many photos during this process.) After the glue cured I used needle files and sandpaper to smooth and better blend the patches, after which I polished the stem with the full range of micro mesh pads, 1500-12000.

Now that the stem and stummel were fully ready, I moved to the downstairs workshop for the finishing touches on everything. I began with my heat gun, warming the band to expand it and press it back in place; I pressed it into an old buffing wheel, using the center hole to help fix the slight out-or-roundness that had gotten in the band, too.

Next I used a dark brown stain pen to re-stain the bowl. I covered it entirely, as evenly as possible, twice and let it dry for a little while before using another alcohol dampened cotton pad to wipe off some of the excess to allow the grain to shine through. Next up was buffing with the Dremel. I used brown Tripoli on the stummel and nickle band first and then white diamond and blue compound on both the stummel and stem. I finished up with a few coats of carnauba wax on the entire pipe and a hand buff with a micro fiber clothe to raise a nice shine. I am really pleased with how the pipe came out overall and think the beveled rim idea to fix the burned area blended in very well. Before you see the finished pipe I must confess the first bowl I smoked in it was horrid! I had to go back and do a second alcohol treatment and I soaked the stem in alcohol and cleaned it again, too. The second cotton ball was even more tar-stained than the first! I had to re-wax and buff the whole pipe, too. But the next bowls proved it was well worth the effort as the pipe now smokes dry and sweet!

Peterson Kildare Marathon Restoration

This year has been a roller coaster ride for me; between added responsibilities of watching our new grandson, health issues, and a flair up of my spinal stenosis that put me down for almost two months, I have been unable to do any of my hobbies. Unfortunately this has put a couple of friends that I have pipes to work on in a state of limbo waiting on me. They are not easy clean-ups and they knew going in I am slow – but still I feel badly about it.

This Peterson Kildare 106 billiard had been in my possession for ages it seems to me at least. I have worked on it off and on, loosing track if my progress (and many of my notes and photos) of the process. It went out in the mail today I am happy to say (and the owner is probably happier to hear!).

I knew the pipe needed stem work mostly but when it arrived at my home it was in worse condition than I had anticipated. The stem was really badly gnawed on, with an extra hole bitten through on the bottom. The pipe was very dirty and there was a fill that had partly fallen out; that didn’t really bother the owner, as I recall, but it made me nuts! Here is a look at what the pipe looked like when I got it.

I began cleaning the internals which weren’t bad as it turns out. I cleaned the stummel with alcohol and cotton pads, removing the grime, exposing the missing fill even worse; I knew I had to deal with that as I went along. But first I began to ream the bowl while the stem soaked in an OxiClean bath. img_5027

The OxiClean bath and a scrubbing in clean, warm water with a green Scotch pad left the stem clean and free of oxidation. The amount of work the stem needed was even more apparent now; not only did the bit need a lot of work, there were some very large dents in the stem. I tried to raise the dents with heat but that really made no difference. So I decided to start the process of building the bit up (P-lip, a new for me repair) and filling in the dents with black CA glue and charcoal powder. This took many layers over many days (which turned into months); I had to raise, shape, repeat, over and over to get the P-lip back and to fill the extra hole in the bottom of the stem and the deep divots.

During the interim times I worked on the fill that was partly gone and one other dent that stream wouldn’t raise. I used coarse briar dust from filing not sanding (which I think takes dye better and is less apt to just be a black spot) and CA glue to fill the two spots (the worst one is visible in the very first photo in this post). I accidentally over did the fill, costing myself a lot of extra time. However the patch ended up blending in great in the end. After a lot of working the patch to blend I stained the pipe with a diluted Brown Fiebing’s leather dye, two coats, flamed on, if I remember right. After buffing with brown-Tripoli the stummel looked nice but too dark to see the really nice grain (birds eye and flame) so I wiped it down with alcohol on a cotton pad until it let the gain show through and re-buffed with brown-Tripoli. Now the stummel looked good to me. Back to the stem…

This P-lip drove me to the brink of insanity! Not having a P-lip on hand to compare it to made it more difficult. Filling the bottom hole (that wasn’t supposed to be there) was easy but shaping that top and bottom lip/ridge was a chore. The deep divot just did not want to be filled; the patch shrunk over and over. The huge, dented  draft hole on the top of the stem was a bother, too; I can’t tell you how many times I glued it shut trying to get that button rebuilt! In the end it came out pretty good; there are some tiny scratches visible if you look real close. But all things given, the owner was happy with that, especially since with the holidays and even more babysitting duties for me on the horizon, who knows when I would be able to finish it (again).

After finally getting the work done I finished the pipe off with a few coats of carnauba wax. I want to mention that I followed the instructions, more or less, for Dremel buffing for the stem and the waxing of the stummel. I currently can’t use my buffer so I wanted to give this option a try and am very pleased with the results. Mine is a variable speed Dremel and I used 5,000 RPM for the compounds and 10,000 RPM for the wax.

Hopefully with the new Dremel techniques I’ve learned (thanks again, Dal and Steve) and with some luck (and no small amount of “okay” from my wife) I will find a way to down size my work-needs to be able to work from my kitchen instead of my basement workshop, allowing me to work more when my mobility issues keep me from the stairs.

Another Denicotea – a tough one from Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Blog by Dal Stanton

When southerners in the US invoke the phrase, “Bless his heart….”, I’ve learned that it usually means that there is some problem or abnormality associated with the person that usually isn’t something he can control, or can’t be explained, or perhaps, even better, should be left without too much comment.  When I received these emailed pictures from Gary, my colleague in Plovdiv, and set my gaze on the two pipes he had purchased at a local antique shop and was gifting me, my reaction was to invoke, “Bless their hearts….”  Here are Gary’s finds that summoned forth my southern invocations.denicotea1 denicotea2I would like to say how much I appreciate Gary – the stories we have shared and life we’ve experienced together – he with a choice cigar, I with a favorite blend and a named pipe – all my rotation pipes have names!  I also appreciate how he has kept his eyes alert to possible pipe reclamations and restorations for me on the Plovdiv front, about 2 hours away from Sofia.  After he sent me these pictures, I emailed back saying that I wasn’t sure how much I could do to help the little brother, but the big boy had potential.  How much?  I couldn’t say, but I was indeed attracted to what appeared to be a meerschaum lined, large volcano shaped stummel which seemed to be hopeful of again being nestled in someone’s palm! A week or so later, I found the gifted pipes waiting for me in my office in Sofia.  When they made it to my work desk at home, I added these pictures of the Denicotea volcano to fill in the gaps.denicotea3 denicotea4 denicotea5 denicotea6 denicotea7This is the second Denicotea I’ve worked on in as many weeks!  The Denicotea Curling turned out to be a beautifully detailed grained pipe but the filtration internals were interesting.  I’m wondering what filtering wonders this one holds!  The left side of the shank has what appears to be a newer script of Denicotea stamped over Trend.  The right side of the shank has a very worn stamp Bruyere Extra over shape number 1152.  Bless its heart…the bowl finish is in bad, bad shape.  It appears to have had a thick shellac varnish on it that has simply worn away and chipping presenting shiny spots of the haggard finish hanging on.  I’ll need to clean the surface thoroughly to see fills that might need attention. The rim is majorly scraped and dented yet, for what I can see of the meerlining, it looks like it might be intact, not having any cracks.  I’m hopeful!  The bowl itself is heavily caked and I’ll need to clean it carefully.  This will be my first meerschaum to work on so I’ll be reading up on other blogs’ meerlined clean-ups and restores.  The stem has some oxidation but only minor teeth chatter.  The button has some tooth bites/dents that need attention.  Most interesting about the stem is that it is comprised of two pieces.  When I disassemble the stem for the first time, I discover that the main slightly bent stem, has an interlocking twist mechanism connecting it to the stem’s filter extension.  The shorter vulcanite filter extension inserts normally into the mortise and has a normal looking air restricting tenon.  Nice – you  can use the pipe with or without filters.  My first impression of the interlocking twist action of the stem is that it is ingenious and seems to work quite well.  I took some pictures to show the stem assembly.denicotea8While playing with and admiring the stem interlocking mechanism, which I discovered would only engage at the correct alignment between stem and filter insert, I looked down the vacated mortise.  Denicotea did not disappoint – had I any doubt?  I could see a deeply implanted metal insert.  Again, as with the Denicotea Curling I had just finished, is this a rogue stinger of sorts that dropped out of the filter insert tenon or is this another filtration machination?  At first glance I’m guessing, rogue stinger, but….  By palm thumping the mortise and a little help from my handy dental probe and tweezers the stinger is extracted.  The end of the stinger appears to have broken off shortening the inserted portion that would grip the vulcanite tenon.  This stinger becomes history.denicotea9With this being my first meerlined project, I read different entries to make sure I was moving through the learning curve.  Unlike briar, I know that a cake is not needed with meerschaum which is a stone (German for ‘sea foam’).  I found Steve’s essay (Link) helpful as he dealt with the two major questions I have about this Denicotea: First, how to approach cleaning out the cake?  Secondly, how to approach the rim surface which combines/intermingles the repairs of both briar and meerschaum?  Can I top meer as I would a briar rim?  How do I approach applying stain later with the meerschaum in the mix – sharing the rim surface?  These are some of the questions as I approach the Denicotea Trend, ‘Bless his heart’, I don’t want to make things worse than they already are!  Attacking the cake, with the cake as thick as it is, I could employ my Pipnet blades to start the reaming and finish up with the Savinelli pipe knife for the fine tuning, but on the maiden voyage with ‘sea foam’ I resolve to take a slower voyage with the Savinelli knife.  Also, since it is a new tool in my chest, I’m anxious to hone in on the techniques of its use. I take another close-up of the bowl to mark the progress.  After taking the picture and taking a closer look, I decide first to clean the rim area with Murphy Oil Soap using the brass brush.  I want to see the meer more clearly to inform the reaming process of possible cracks.  I also decide to wash the entire stummel with Murphy while I was at it. Using cotton pads, I apply Murphy Soap undiluted and scrub the stummel surface and rim.  With a brass brush, I work at loosening and cleaning up the lava and cake build up to see the rim better.  The Murphy Soap doesn’t make much of a dent on the stummel – it is looking more like residue varnish left over on the surface.  But, progress is made on the rim and I can see the meerlining much better.  It seems to be in good shape, but the rim will need topping to restore clean, healthy briar to the rim. denicotea10 denicotea11Satisfied with my improved perspective, I take the stummel with Savinelli pipe knife in hand to the 10th floor ‘Man Cave’ balcony to ream the pipe.  The additional sunlight helps me see the internal bowl surface as I bring the knife into contact with the cake.  The technique that develops is that I start from the rim, where the actual meerschaum surface is more evident, and work down gradually into the bowl where the cake thickens.  As I work with the knife, I also can detect a difference in the sound and feel of the knife as it has contact with the cake or with the meerschaum surface.  Using the knife, it became more difficult to judge what was going on when I was at the floor of the fire chamber around the draft hole.  I take a picture at the completion of the knife reaming.  I then take 240 sanding paper rolled around my finger as well as around the thinner end of a plastic toothbrush handle and continue to clean the meer surface of cake residue.  Even though the meerschaum is dark colored, it is smooth to the touch and the cake is eliminated!  I wipe out the chamber with a damp cotton pad.  I’m pleased and relieved.  The pictures show the progress.denicotea12 denicotea13 denicotea14With the bowl reamed and cleaned, I take Q-tips and pipe cleaners and clean the internals of the stummel using isopropyl 95%.  As I work on the internals with the Q-tips and pipe cleaners I watch the growing pile of used Q-tips and pipe cleaners change from being a hopeful small pile to a frustrated virtual Mt. Everest of expended Q-tips and pipe cleaners with no ‘gunkless’ end in sight.  From what I can see with my iPhone light down the mortise and what I can detect from the touch of the many Q-tips that have made the plunge, there seems to be a cavity of sorts between where the meerschaum lining terminates with the draft hole (as it transitions into the shank) and a tightening or closing of the mortise about ¾ in from the tenon side formed when the shank was factory bored.  This cavity seems to be a natural gunk reservoir that Q-tips pass over.  denicotea15

My first thought is to pull out the retort, but after a quick email to Charles Lemon (Dad’spipes.com) my concerns that the meerlining might not stand up to the boiling alcohol were confirmed.  Instead Charles recommended:

Without using the retort, I would suggest using a flat-ended tool (the square end of a flat needle file?) or an appropriately sized drill bit turned by hand to scrape out as much of the old tars and gunk as possible and then going at it again with swabs and cleaners dipped in alcohol. 

I grab my flat spoon and pointed dental probes and reach in over the ‘hump’ in the mortise to scratch up the muck cavity and it does stir things up – following again with Q-tips which are saturated with fresh, loose muckness that had been scraped up by the dental probes.  As I scrape and Q-tip plunge repeatedly, the reality of what I believe is a design flaw with this Denicotea Trend forms in my mind.  It will be nigh impossible to keep this pipe clean with normal use and cleaning with the cavity existing deep within the mortise.  Therefore, a plan starts formulating, using the drill approach that Charles recommended above, I decide to take it one step further and attempt to re-engineer the internals of the mortise by removing the ‘hump’ in the mortise as much as I am able.  Since it is beyond (deeper) the reach of the tenon’s full insertion point within the mortise, widening the mortise by removing the hump (or some of it) should not impact the tenon’s fit.  My goal would be to create a straightened mortise that would expose a more uniform interior for cleaning.  I put down the dental probes and Q-tips and put the stummel aside to give more consideration to this plan.  The pictures below show the lack of progress with the cleaning job and a diagram I couldn’t resist creating to conceptualize the obstacle (yellow line) and solution (white dashed line)!denicotea16 denicotea17While reflecting on the emerging stummel game plan, I fish the multi-pieced stem out of the Oxi-clean bath and remove the oxidation that has emerged on the vulcanite surface with 320 sanding paper followed by 000 steel wool.  The stem surfaces look good so I turn to cleaning the internals of the two stem pieces.  I use Q-tips, cotton balls and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  Not nearly as much resistance as the stummel is putting up.  The final picture shows more clearly tooth dents and button biting work that need to be tackled.denicotea18 denicotea19Back to the stummel, I decide to take a drill bit just at the size needed to match the narrow hole created by the tapered factory bore in the mortise – creating the ‘hump’ forming the cavity beyond it collecting the gunk.  I turn it by hand without impacting the mortise wall.  It’s not easy maintaining a straight approach with the bit by hand.  I turn the bit only at the hump not going deeper and potentially impacting the meer.  That seems to work as briar ‘saw dust’ drops out of the mortise.  I then take the next larger bit and do the same thing – not as easy as it bites into the briar hump more.  After doing this a few minutes I realize that this approach is not going to work to the degree I had hoped. To do this properly, I need a stationary drill press and a secure way to position the stummel and re-bore or deepen the mortise.  So, I take a semi-circular needle file and with nerves of steel, attack the hump without touching the mortise walls.  This was helpful in bringing the hump down a bit, but my hope for a straightened mortise was evaporating.  Putting away the file, I return to the scape and clean technique I began with and I make some progress!  The partial hump removal did help with the cleaning angles.  Finally, clean Q-tips start emerging and I take a final picture of ‘Cleaning Job Done!’  Then I recalled Charles’ suggestion of using a ‘flat’ edged file to scrape. Hmm.  So, I take my flat end needle file and scrape – unbelievable!  More muck!  Thankfully, not too many more Q-tips were expended and I can say, to the best of my ability and understanding: Clean!  When I put this pipe on eBay to find it a new home, I do not want to put forward a ‘hypocrite pipe’ – looking good on the outside but nasty on the inside!  Pipes often remind me of people and how God’s work starts on the ‘internals’ and then moves to the ‘externals’!denicotea20 denicotea21With ‘internals’ of both stummel and stem now in good shape, I move to the externals.  The next step is to work on the rim. When I look at the rim I discover a place in the meerschaum that has cracked (ugh!) at about 6:35 o’clock in the picture below and what might be a hairline crack running from in.  Even though I plan to top the rim, I apply some superglue to the chipped area hopefully to add a bit of strength.  It’s late, I’m tired from the longest muck cleaning contest in my record book, so I put the stummel down to allow the superglue to cure overnight.denicotea22 denicotea23The next day, I take a picture of the rim to show the spot on the rim where I applied superglue the night before and to show the progress as I top the rim.  I have not topped a meerlined pipe before, so I proceed cautiously and I want to see how it turns out before moving to the stummel external finishing (Thought: “O ye of little faith!”).  With 240 grit sanding paper on a chop block I go out on the 10th floor Man Cave balcony and begin the topping process.  I move the stummel around in a circular motion for a few rotations and stop to check to make sure I’m staying true – not dipping into soft spots and checking out the meerlining.  I take pictures along the way to show the progress. denicotea24 denicotea25 denicotea26As they say, all was going so well until it wasn’t!  The chipped area in the meerschaum that I reinforced with superglue crumbled under the stress of the topping.  In the last picture above you can see the fault line developing.  What to do?  After looking at the new damage, I decide to continue to top the rim a bit more to increase the solid meer bordering the briar and to reduce the area in need of repair (3rd picture below).  I’m thankful that the volcano cone stummel has some space to give up to the topping process!denicotea27 denicotea28 denicotea29Another email is sent with the pictures above to Steve for his input.  So far, a ‘Two Email’ restoration…another record.  I’m thankful for willing mentors!  With Steve’s response in hand describing plaster of Paris and superglue options, I elect to rebuild the chipped area using superglue.  I apply it to the area and balance the stummel to allow the superglue to settle in place and I go to bed.  The next morning, I look at the patch and realize another layer of superglue is needed to build up the surface further.  After lightly sanding the patched area to smooth the first layer of glue I carefully apply another coat to the needed patch area.  Again, I balance the stummel allowing the second application of superglue to cure is the desired place.  My goal is to rebuild the meerschaum rim chip enough to be able to sand the wall side of the patch smooth, hopefully blending the patch with the meerlining.  I will probably again lightly top the stummel with a finer grit sand paper to bring the rim surface in sync with the patched area.  Finally, I will carefully cut a bevel on the meerschaum lining to minimize the patched area.  From earlier pictures, it appears that the pipe had a light bevel texturing the meerschaum lining look – I like it. denicotea30 denicotea31After several hours, I return to the Denicotea Trend anxious to make some progress.  The superglue patch has hardened to touch but I want to give it more time to cure thoroughly.  I decide to start a thorough removal of the old finish to coax the hidden briar grain into the light – I like this part!  I take another look at the stummel surface.  The old finish looks very much like the ‘shellacy’ candy apple varnish sheen which often is a bear to remove.  With cotton pads and acetone, I scrub down the stummel to loosen up the old finish careful to avoid the ongoing rim repair.  After a lot of elbow grease and cotton pads as expected, the old finish is not giving up easily.  I decide to use 000 steel wool with acetone and lightly rub the surface with the wool and that does the trick.  Utilizing the spittle test to moisten the bare wood, I get a sneak peak of the briar’s potential.denicotea32 denicotea33Now to the complete the rim.  The picture directly above and below show the superglue patch for the chip in the meerschaum lining of the bowl.  With 240 grit sanding paper, I sand the patch down to the meer surface rounding it to blend with the curvature of the bowl.  I concentrate only on the wall area of the patch leaving the rim surface for later.  When the surface of the patch wall is smooth and blends with the curvature, I sand the patch on the rim surface to bring it down to blend.  I had intended to return to the topping board for a few revolutions, but decide that it would be better to work directly on the patch instead of removing more of the bowl on the topping board and stressing the patch more than needed.  It didn’t take long to sand the patch bump down to the rim surface.  At this point, also with 240 grit sanding paper, I cut a bevel on the inside of the meer rim to help blend the patch but also simply to soften the meer’s rim edge.  I’m satisfied with the patch even though the patch has a different hue from the surrounding meer.  It’s the best I can do and I’m thankful it seems strong and I’m hopeful it will hold up well for many bowlfuls of tobacco to come.denicotea34 denicotea35 denicotea36Turning back to the stem, I take close-up of the repair needed with a tooth dent and a bite on the button lip.  I decide to try the heating technique to address these problems.  Another first for me on the restore!  With a butane lighter, I gingerly place the flame over the areas – remembering Steve’s description when he did this – ‘painting the surface’ with the flame.  Well, I’m not sure if it was a success or not.  After the flame, I use 240 grit sanding paper and finish removing the tooth dent and smooth out the button lip.  I also refine the button lip above and below with the straight edge of a needle file.  Pictures show the progress. denicotea37denicotea38Satisfied with how the repairs look, I begin the micromesh sanding/polishing cycles on the stem.  Reattaching the reassembled stem to the stummel, using micromesh pads 1500-2400 I wet sand the stem follow with applying Obsidian Oil.  Following the wet sand, I dry sand using micromesh pads 3200-4000 and then 6000-12000, following each cycle with an application of Obsidian Oil.  I love the vulcanite pop after the micromesh polishing.  The pictures show the progress on the stem polishing.denicotea39 denicotea40 denicotea41With the stem work completed, I return to the stummel and take a medium sanding sponge and use it to lightly top the rim rotating it in a circular motion over the sponge.  I do this to finish the sanding of the rim preparing for the micromesh polishing.  With a light grade sanding sponge, I sand the rim as well as the stummel removing small nicks on the briar surface.  Using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stummel and rim followed by dry sanding with pads 3200-4000.  After completing this cycle, I notice two small pits that looked like they had been fills on the front bottom of the volcano shape.  I didn’t notice them before and the question in my mind is, do I fill them and then spot sand the area and repeat the micromesh process?  My answer was, ‘Yes’.  I applied a couple drops of super glue to the pits and set the project aside and because its late, I go to bed!  Pictures show the stummel progress and stoppage of progress!denicotea42 denicotea43 denicotea44 denicotea45 denicotea46The next morning, I played patch catchup!  Folding a small piece of 240 grit sanding paper into a knife edge, I strategically sanded the patch bumps down to the briar surface (pictured).  Then, repeating use of the light weight sanding sponge, followed by repeating the micromesh cycles 1500-4000, I can then bring the patched area back in pace with the rest of the stummel.  I complete the micromesh polishing process using pads 6000 to 12000.  I notice a few other fill areas that simply need to be darkened with a stain stick.  The pictures show the catch up and completion!denicotea47 denicotea48 denicotea49Decision time.  Do I stain this Denicotea Trend or simply bring the briar up to full glow directly with the polishing process?  The question that I had since the beginning with the meerschaum lining was how to approach staining the briar that shared the rim surface with the meer?  With input from Steve (Oh my, a 3-email restoration!), patience, a steady hand and a Q-tip was the advice.  After this, still unsure of a direction, I pulled in the ultimate authority and did a ‘Wife Taste Test’.  I explained to her that if I did stain, I wanted to use Fiebing’s Dark Brown and cut it by half with alcohol to lighten it.  With options spelled out, her choice was to leave the Denicotea as is. Rationale: “Most all my pipes have a dark hue – you need a lighter one.”  Good enough for me!  After applying Dark Walnut to a fill on the shank with an Italian brand stain stick, I take my Dremel tool with a felt wheel and I apply Tripoli compound to the stummel surface.  I use the slowest speed available and keep the wheel moving across the surface.  I don’t apply much pressure on the wheel allowing the speed of the Dremel and the compound to do the work.  Most blogs I’ve read that describe the use of polishing compounds warn against loading the wheel up on too much compound.  So, when I reload the wheel, I lightly touch the compound block.  After completing the Tripoli, I apply Blue Diamond compound with its own felt wheel, same speed and technique as with Tripoli.  Then, switching to a cotton cloth wheel and increasing the speed of the Dremel by one number, I apply several coats of carnauba wax on both stummel and stem, watching the wax as it liquefies and spread it evenly over the surface.  Following the carnauba application, I Dremel buff the entire pipe with a clean cloth wheel.  Completing the restoration, I hand buff the pipe vigorously with a microfiber cloth. denicotea50I started this restoration with, “Bless his heart….”  Now, this old boy stands on his own and though he has some scars of battle in the form of a meerschaum patch, he looks good.  My wife’s input to maintain the natural briar hue was spot on.  The beautiful caramel coloring blends well with the meerschaum lining and the depth of grain on this Denicotea has been liberated from being encased under the nasty shellac varnish.  I’m very pleased – especially with the last view below – the steward’s perspective.  The lateral fire grain will be a great view for the pipe man that adds this rescued Denicotea to his collection.  I couldn’t help starting off with pictures before (“Bless his heart….”) and after (“Dang!”).  If you would like to add this pipe to your collection, leave me a note in the comments.  Thanks for joining me!denicotea51 denicotea52 denicotea53 denicotea54 denicotea55 denicotea56 denicotea57 denicotea58


Sofia ‘Hole in the Wall’ find – Savinelli Tortuga

Blog by Dal Stanton

Emboldened by the responses and expressions of welcome from my first submission of the restoration of the Dr. Plumbs, Oom-Paul (named, Chicho Pavel for Bulgarian residence), I wanted to tackle a beautiful Savinelli Tortuga 628 that Steve and I met at what I affectionately call the ‘Hole in the Wall’ antique store (first door pictured below – getting a paint job that day – thanks to Google Maps) in an ethnically diverse area of Sofia near Zhenski Pazar (Women’s Market) on Brother Miladinovi Street. After finding a few pipes at the Antique Market near Nevski Cathedral we made the trek to the Hole in the Wall. I remembered on other occasions the shop owner producing (from a safe place behind his desk) a beautiful leather 4-pipe pouch and I asked about it. I was glad that he still had it so that Steve could take a look – 4 pipes still intact.  Steve’s eyebrows raised a bit as he looked over the contents – the leather bag itself was a find.  The 4 revealed after unzipping the bag were a Savinelli Tortuga 628, Danske Club Vario 85, Capitol (I discovered later to be a Savinelli second) and to complete the find, a Butz-Choquin Rocamar. At 150 Leva (86$) asking price for the lot, I had always passed on it – more in tuned to search for the 5-10 Leva orphans that needed a new home. But I have to be honest – the Tortuga was pulling at my heart-strings! The Danske Club Vario was a close second – feeling like the 16-year-old kid with braces and acne and looking at the prom queen – ‘out of your league, son!’

Neither Steve nor I left any of our money at the Hole in the Wall that day, but it didn’t take long heading home on the metro before Steve and I were weighing the pros and cons of me heading back and laying claim to the Bag of 4 – I could sell two of the pipes to bankroll the purchase…. Suddenly, with Steve’s encouragement, the prom queen became a possibility! I could imagine the Tortuga planted in my palm. I returned to the HitW the next morning to lay claim to the Bag of 4 only to discover the shop was closed for the weekend. I returned Monday and was able to strike a deal at 130 Leva – roughly 74$ US – not really bad when you include the leather bag as well. When I arrived home, I promptly took pictures and sent them off to Steve, who had moved on to Athens that morning for his work. He posted the pictures I sent at https://rebornpipes.com/2016/06/10/ for “Some Good Pipe Finds on a Recent Trip to Europe”. I’ve included a picture of the Bag of 4 below. I also found two pipe tools as I explored the pockets – one looks to have some age – a Duncan Made in England with what appears to be the original leather holder. Another was marked ‘Queen’. I looked a bit on the internet and the Duncan might have some collector value. I’ve grown to love the hunt!Hole1 Hole2 Hole3 Hole4As a newbie to the hobby, several months ago Steve directed me to eBay’s Estate Pipe listings where my Tobacciana education began in earnest. It was by trolling through the plethora of pipes on the block, reading descriptions, that I began to distinguish shapes, markings and names. Savinelli pipes caught my attention early on because the briar always seemed to be on fire and the Lucite stems were rolling matrices of color smartly complimenting the wood grains. I also noticed that the name Savinelli consistently created more bidding wars and happier results for the sellers! I was fortunate enough to place the winning bid to add my first Savinelli marked ‘Goliath’ 619EX which I brought back to Bulgaria from my recent trip to the US – in queue along with several others I brought back. I looked on the internet to see if I could find any specific information about the Savinelli Tortuga 628 and I discovered that for at least the Tortuga series, Savinelli sells them with bowl toppers which appear to match the Lucite stems – a very nice touch which I’ll keep in mind for later. There’s much information about the Savinelli name in Pipedia.com and I enjoyed reading of the beginnings in 1876 when Achille Savinelli Sr. opened the first shop in Milan. On this trip to Pipedia I also discovered that the ‘Capitol’, appearing to be a petite bent apple, also acquired in the Bag of 4 was a Savinelli second – the only non-filtered pipe in the lot. Following are the pictures taken after acquiring the Tortuga from the Hole in the Wall:Hole5 Hole6 Hole7 Hole8 Hole9 Hole10 Hole11 Hole12 Hole13 Hole14 Hole15With the prom queen in my gaze, I was not disappointed. The stummel was in need of basic cleaning but needed no fills. She would shine up nicely with the briar ablaze. There was moderate cake in the chamber that would need to be reamed to bring it down to the wood – a fresh start. The rim revealed the most abuse – there was normal lava buildup but a significant burn at seven o’clock which revealed the Tortuga’s former steward’s right-handed lighting practices – drawing the flame over the rim – ugh. I detected a nice, crisp bevel on the inside ring of the rim – that would be nice to restore. I like ‘accent’ bevels – a classier detailed look. Other than this, the stummel appeared to be in good condition. The stem had minor tooth chatter on the top and bottom and I detected oxidation on the band that I would need to address. The Lucite stem – my first to work on – looks to shine up well. I’ll work on the stem internals to remove the dark build-up evident in the airway through the translucent Lucite – at this point I’m not sure what will actually clean-up in the airway. Yes, and I’ll need to toss the used filter left behind which would reveal the former owner’s DNA code. Thankful to Steve for his coaching and with a prayer, I decided to tackle the bowl first with my PipNet kit to restore the bowl to the wood. Since my workstation is in our bedroom, I first spread out the paper towel to collect the released cake and minimize clean-up. Starting with the smallest blade I rotated the blade while applying gentle, consistent vertical pressure. I could tell when the blade was finished when the cake resistance stopped as I turned the tool.  As the charcoal fell out of the bowl, I realized that the overhead fan that was keeping me cool was also scattering the soot into the atmosphere – my wife won’t be happy about that! Fan off – I continued with the next larger blade and that was sufficient. In order to get a better look at the rim, and survey the extent of the scorched area, I cleaned the rim with a brass brush and isopropyl 95%. The pictures show the progress.Hole16 Hole17 Hole18With the rim fully exposed I can now see more of the inner bevel that I want to restore and I can see the depth of the burn.  I would need to top the bowl taking off only enough to remove the burn damage. With my last (maiden!) full restore of the Dr. Plumbs Oom Paul (https://rebornpipes.com/2016/06/10/a-newbie-restore-of-a-dr-plumb-9456-oom-paul/) I made the mistake of topping the bowl at a slight (unfortunate!) angle so that it was not perpendicular to the shank/stem. Steve said that this can happen when a part of the rim is softer and that can pull the angle off. OK, burn spot – maybe a soft spot on the Tortuga’s rim. I don’t want to  ‘re-top’ the bowl like last time! I decide to remove the stem from the stummel so that while topping, I can allow it to ‘free-stand’ periodically and eyeball things – to make sure the angle is true! I spread out 240 grit paper on a chopping board and offer another prayer. For this procedure, I move out onto my 10th floor balcony ‘Man Cave’ so as to minimize sawdust in the bedroom atmosphere. I decide to turn on Eric Clapton’s ’24 Nights’ live concert album (on my iPhone) and I go to work. After a bit, I decided to put the stem back on the stummel because it helped me line things up. It seems I did a better job topping this time around so I began work on the inner rim to restore a nice bevel before I micromesh the bare rim. I used needle files and sandpaper to do this. I think the bevel is looking pretty even around the inner circumference of the bowl. Working by hand, I was a bit disappointed that I was not able to restore the sharp, crisp bevel as I had hoped. I was reluctant to use the Dremel, as it has a tendency (in my hands) to chew out more than expected. The finished bevel is rounded out more than I wanted but still attractive. I will leave it as is – put beveling techniques on the learning list! I move to micromesh the rim with 1500-2400 to remove all the scratches from the topping and bevel work. I completed the rim by applying a mahogany stain stick. Using isopropyl and cotton pad I lightly wiped the rim to lighten the application. I found that I could either lean toward the lighter or darker tones of the Tortuga briar. I chose the darker – from my vantage point, a pretty good match!  She’s looking great!  I’m pleased with the progress!Hole19 Hole20 Hole21 Hole22 Hole23With the rim repaired and bowl reamed, I moved to the internals of the stummel – cleaning with pipe cleaners and Q-tips dipping in isopropyl 95%. Well, about 4 minutes into the process with Q-tips blasting away at the muck while I listened to the track of Westside Story, a thought sprang to life in my right lobe – ‘Why not break out the new retort you just brought back from the States?’ My first reflex was – ‘Oh no – boil alcohol?’ That thought has bothered me since I ordered it and read about retorts and watched YouTube demonstrations. It took me a minute to remember where I had stowed the box it came in – eBay of course, from Mark Johnston (www.pipeandwine.com). I remember appreciating that he was selling to promote the “Wounded Warrior Project” – very cool. I paid his asking price and sent a note thanking him for his service in the Navy and proud to say that my son too, was a naval veteran having served on an LA class attack sub as a reactor technician – the USS Boise. After finding the box and unpacking the contents, I thought it might be wise to read the directions included. The first paragraph didn’t ease my concerns as it recommended having safety glasses and fire extinguisher nearby, “just in case.” Fears aside, I start putting things together. The directions were very much ‘spoken English’ and I could almost hear Mark explain the debate about what kind of alcohol to use – potable or isopropyl? I’ve used a strong Bulgarian drink called, Rakia (brandy) but I’ll give vodka a try for the retort.  Settled. The retort worked as advertised with only one exciting moment when the cotton ball shot out of the bowl. I wasn’t fast enough to catch a picture of that. The stem before and after pictured below.Hole24 Hole25 Hole26 Hole27

With the internal cleaning complete for both bowl and stem, I move to the externals. I decide to work on the stummel first – starting with a light cleaning with Murphy’s Soap, which weighed quite a bit in my suitcase flying from Atlanta to Sofia. With Steve’s counsel, I used cotton pads and made a light application, undiluted, and quickly wiped it off with a cotton pad with tap water so as to not take off stain and dampen the color already in the briar. As expected, Murphy’s dulled the finish as it took off the superficial wax layer. Now, what I’ve been waiting for – since the stummel is already in stellar condition – no significant scratches or blemishes, I move directly to the polishing regimen with carnauba wax using my Dremel (truth be known, I actually do not have a Dremel brand tool – but a Skil (It does the job and was a bit cheaper here in Bulgaria) and Chinese-purchased cotton wheels off eBay. Since about 50 came in the bag, I decided to use a new one for the Tortuga but I know that means I’ll be covered with cotton fiber as the new wheel settles down from being new! I put the stem back on the stummel so that I would have a good hold for the Dremel work – launching the cotton ball with the retort was enough excitement. I don’t want to launch the pipe too, especially as I work around the rim.  I use the slowest RPM setting and am careful to keep the wheel moving over the briar surface to not overheat the wood. I took a couple close-ups of the stummel before I started for a comparison later. I applied several coats of carnauba wax and finished with a clean wheel buff and a vigorous rub with a micro-fiber cloth to give the grain depth. Pictures show great progress and a look at my chop-block lap work with the Dremel – it’s easier to stay on top of things. Now to the stem – the home-stretch.Hole28 Hole29 Hole30 Hole31I’ve not worked on a Lucite stem before but Steve assured me it’s the same basics as a vulcanite stem.  I took another close up of the button area to determine if 240 grit sandpaper will be sufficient to deal with the moderate teeth chatter or if I need to build the divots up with super glue first.  I decided simply to strategically sand the teeth chatter and gave the button a bit more definition with the needle file. To remove the scratches from working with the file and paper I used the full regimen of micromesh 1500-2400, 3200-4000, and 6000-12000. During the first cycle I also used a bit of 240 grit sandpaper on the band focusing on some pitting from oxidation that I detected. It worked the problems out of the band and I continued with the micromesh regimen.  The pictures tell the story!Hole32 Hole33 Hole34 Hole35 Hole36 Hole37Well, I’m not disappointed with the prom queen! She’s beautiful. The briar is on fire as I hoped and the Lucite ‘turtle’ stem compliment the wood perfectly. I was disappointed with the bevel initially, but I like how the rounded bevel flows with the rest of the grain movement. I will be cannibalizing a stem and fabricating a filter adapter – I don’t like filtered systems. So, before I try this Savinelli out, I’ll be working on that. As with my other pipes – a name is appropriate when it stays in my meager but growing collection. I think Savinelli already did a good job. Tortuga is a cool name! Thanks!Hole38 Hole39 Hole40 Hole41 Hole42 Hole43 Hole44