Tag Archives: polishing

A Medico VFQ Rhodesian with a Cumberland Stem


Blog by Steve Laug

My brother Jeff and I visited an antique mall that was in an old grainery along a railroad track not too long ago. We went through the display cases and booths on two floors and found a few pipes. This was one of them – an old Medico VFQ Rhodesian. I have been told that VFQ means Very Fine Quality and underneath the grime it appeared that this one may have lived up to the stamping. The stem is a Cumberland like material with swirls and striations in a mahogany coloured stem. In classic Medico style the pipe was made for their paper filter and had a hollow, adjustable tenon. The tenon has a split on both sides that can be expanded should the stem become loose in the shank.The pipe was in rough shape. The bowl was thickly caked and had remnants of tobacco in it. The rim top was covered with overflow from the bowl and there were some large chips on the top and inner edge of the bowl on the right side. The finish was shot with the top varnish coat peeling all over the bowl. The ring around the bowl was dirty but was undamaged.The pipe was stamped Medico over V.F.Q. over Imported Briar on the left side of the shank. It also was stamped with the shape number 76 on the right side. The stem bore the V.F.Q. stamp on the left side as well.The stem was oxidized, dirty and had tooth chatter on both sides at the button. There was an old paper filter still in the tenon and the inside of the shank and stem were filthy.When we got back to my brother’s place we reamed the pipe and scrubbed it down with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the damage finish. We scrubbed the mortise, airway into the bowl and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I took photos of the cleaned pipe when I finally brought it to my work table in Vancouver. (Notice the angle of the rim top on the bowl. It was not flat and the damage had left the front higher than the back.) The next two photos show the condition of the tenon and bowl when taken apart and the damaged rim once all the cake had been removed. The rim had damage all the way around but the biggest damage was on the rear right side where there was a large chip missing.The stem shows some wear in the next photos and the striations of colour are almost not visible due to oxidation.I decided to even out the height of the rim cap by carefully topping the bowl. Since the back side was higher than the front I was pretty sure I could remove most if not all of the chipped area on the rear right. I topped it on a board with 220 grit sandpaper and carefully leveled the bowl by applying more pressure to the rear of the bowl than the front and lifting the front edge off the paper as I remove the damaged and excess on the read of the bowl. It took some work to level the bowl properly and end up with an even top both from a vertical and horizontal view.I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to bevel out the inner edge of the rim to remove the remaining rim damage and clean up the appearance of the rim.I sanded the rim with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge and with 1500-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches. I wiped the bowl down with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the remaining finish and stain on the bowl in preparation for matching the newly topped rim with the colour of the rest of the bowl. I did a more thorough cleanup of the mortise and airway into the bowl to remove all of the sanding dust and remaining debris that was there. I scrubbed it out with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and alcohol. I also ran pipe cleaners through the airway in the stem and cleaned the mortise with cotton swabs.The bowl had many nicks and scratches. I sanded it with micromesh pads to remove the majority of them but decided to leave some of the deeper ones as beauty marks of the old pipe. In the photos the bowl looks pretty richly coloured but in reality it was faded and apart from the flash the grain did not stand out. I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain, flamed it and repeated the process until I was happy with the coverage on the bowl. The look of the bowl in the next two photos is really odd. I think that it is a phenomenon of the flash because it did not look like this in person.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on cotton pads to remove some of the opacity of the stain and make it more transparent. In the photos below you can see that it is lighter but still to heavy to show the grain to my liking. I buffed the bowl with red Tripoli, sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge, then polished it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads to remove some more of the dark stain and leave behind some nice contrasts in the grain of the bowl. The next photos show it after I had buffed it with Blue Diamond to polish it. I set the bowl aside for now and turned my attention to the stem. I have found that these Medico stems are not fully vulcanite and are a bit of a bear to polish. I have often been left to do the polishing by hand as the buffer can generate too much heat if I am not careful. The heat damages the material of the stem and forces you to start over. I sanded out the tooth chatter and marks on both sides of the stem and reshaped the button edges with 220 grit sandpaper.  The flow of the top of the shank to the top of the stem was interrupted in that the height of the stem at that point was higher than that of the shank so I sanded the top half of the stem to make that transition smoother.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 until I removed the scratches left behind by the sandpaper. I dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each sanding pad to give the pads more bite and allow them to really polish the stem. Between the 4000 and 6000 grit pads I buffed the stem very carefully (you have to have a light touch against the wheel). I gave it a final rub down of oil after the 12000 grit pad. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed bowl and stem with Blue Diamond a final time. It really polishes the briar and with a careful/light touch can polish these older Medico stems. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine.The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. To me the stain goes really well with the polished Cumberland like stem. They play off each other very well. The contrast on the bowl raises the highlights in the stem and vice versa. This pipe will soon be on the rebornpipes store if you wold like to add it to your rack. It is very lightweight and comfortable in the hand. I think, judging from the condition of the pipe when I got it, that it will be a great smoking pipe, with or without the Medico filter.

Rebirth: a Liverpool Stummel with Beautiful Grain and Miserable Drilling


Blog by Steve Laug

I found this long shank Liverpool pipe sans stem at an antique mall in Idaho when I was visiting my brother. I did not look at it too closely but noticed it was lightly smoked and had some really nice looking grain. I bought it as I figured it would not be too big a deal to make a stem for it. Besides the price was only $4. Looking at the next four photos you can see why the grain got my attention. It is a mix of birdseye, flame and cross grain. The stain that was used really highlights the grain. In the first photo you can see the chip out of the top of the bowl on the left side as well as the chip out of the shank top between the bowl junction and the stamping on the shank side. When I got back to my brother’s place he looked it over and just shook his head. He pointed out the issues with the bowl. The airway entered the bowl at the far right side. The bowl was hardly smoked and this may well have been a reason. Externally the bowl was not round it was entirely lopsided. It was wrong both inside and out in more ways than I had noticed in my quick decision to purchase it. This one was going to be a challenge in more ways than one to restem and make usable once more. I was looking forward to seeing what I could do. The next two photos show the misdrilling and the misshapen out of round external bowl.There were some deep gouges on the left side of the pipe – one had the top of the bowl and one on the shank just ahead of the stamping. There were also some pits and gouges on the underside of the shank and on the end on both top and bottom. I have circled the large one in the first photo below. It is a bright spot circled in red. Then I looked closer at the overall bowl and shank. What a mess. It had been drilled at quite an angle. It appeared that the drill had gone through the right side of the shank just before the bowl. It had been repaired with a fill that was pitted. It is circled in red in the second photo below. The third photo shows the shank from the mortise end. It is obvious that the shank was not round and the mortise was off to the right. This was going to be an interesting pipe to restem. As I looked at the left side of the shank with a magnifying lens I could see that first line of stamping (faint on the top and better at the bottom side of the words read CONTINENTAL. The second line of stamping was clearer and read REAL BRIAR. In examining the rest of the shank, I could see that it was all that was stamped on the pipe. I did some searching for the brand name and found one on Pipedia. The Continental Briar Pipe Co. Inc. manufactured briar pipes in Brooklyn, New York. The address on York and Adams Streets was taken from a letter sent to a Henry T. Rice dated July 28, 1941.

I went through my stem can and found two prospects for stems. Because the shank was misdrilled and out of round and the mortise was also off to the side I needed to have a stem slightly larger in diameter than the shank.  One of the stems was a saddle stem and the other a taper stem. The saddle stem was not quite large enough so I opted for the taper. I used a pen knife to open the mortise and make it more round. I worked to remove briar from the left side of the mortise and make the shank end round. In the third photo below you can see the finished mortise.When I finished the work on the mortise I sanded it with a rolled piece of sandpaper to smooth things out.I pushed the taper stem into the mortise and the fit against the shank was a good fit. The right side where the shank was out of round needed to have some vulcanite removed to make the flow of the stem and shank correct but it would work. The taper stem makes the pipe a Liverpool. If I had used the saddle stem it would have been a lumberman. I like the promising look of the new pipe. There were many on the top and the bottom of the shank and along the right side of the top of the bowl. There was also a place on the right side of the shank at the bowl shank junction that had been filled to repair a drill through. It had been patched with putty but was pitted and rough. I wiped the shank and bowl edge down with alcohol. I filled all of the pits and the repaired area with briar dust and then put drops of super glue on top of the dust fills. The photos below show the patched and repaired areas.When the repairs dried I sanded the repairs smooth to match the briar around them. The photos below show the freshly sanded areas on the pipe. The repairs are dark spots in the middle of the sanded areas. They will be blended in once I stain the bowl and shank. I used a needle file to reshape the button edges on both sides of the stem. They were worn down and the sharp edge was indistinct. I redefined the edges and smoothed out the surface in front of the button.I wiped the bowl and shank down with alcohol to remove the remaining finish on the bowl and to clean off the dust in preparation for restaining the pipe. I sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and smooth out the file marks and tooth marks that remained. I lightly topped the bowl on the topping board to remove the damaged areas on the rim and created a smooth well defined edge on both the inner and outer parts of the bowl. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean the inner edge and remove the darkening there.I wiped it down another time to clean off the rim and the edges of dust. I used a dark brown stain touch up pen to stain the sanded areas on the rim, bowl side, shank top and bottom and shank end. I was not too worried about coverage at this point rather providing a base coat before I stained the bowl in its entirety. My thinking was that the base coat would blend in with the existing stain and then the top coat would tie it all together. I stained the pipe with a dark brown aniline stain and flamed it with a lighter. I repeated the process of staining and flaming until the coverage was even around the bowl. I set the pipe aside to dry for a few hours and worked on the stem.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on cotton pads to remove the dark crusty finish. I wanted the stain to be more transparent to let the grain show through. I sanded it with micromesh sanding pads to polish the bowl and shank. The grain really shown through now and the flame grain, birdseye and cross grain were beautiful. The fills have blended in on most of the bowl while the repair on the right side of the shank at the bowl is dark but smooth. I scraped out the remnants of cake that remained inside of the bowl with the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and sanded the walls with 180 grit sandpaper to smooth them out.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each set of three pads. I took it and buffed it with Tripoli after the 2400 grit pad and followed that with Blue Diamond. Then I went on to continue polishing it with the higher grits of micromesh pads. I buffed the pipe and stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and carefully buffed around the stamping. I did not want to damage it any further than before. I gave the pipe and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine on the briar and the vulcanite. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a long pipe that is just under 7 inches long and the bowl is 1 ¾ inches tall. The bowl exterior is 1 1/8 inches in diameter and the bowl chamber is ¾ inch in diameter. What started out as a major mess came out looking like a fine pipe. Even though the airway enters the bowl on the far right the draw is still very good. I think it should smoke fairly well and provide a decent looking long pipe for someone who wants to add it to his collection. Thanks for walking through the challenge with me.

Sandblast Reveals Stunning Grain on a GBD Concorde 9438


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I brought to the table had two major attributes that piqued my interest. The first was that it has an amazing sandblast (or is it a combination blast and rustication?). The second thing was that it was a pipe in my favourite GBD shape that I think nobody does as well as they do – the 9438 Rhodesian.  The pipe is stamped on the smooth underside of the shank GBD in an oval and next to that Concorde. Running along the shank stem junction it reads 9438 and Made in France. The logo is stamped into the left side of the saddle portion of the stem. The next photos show what the pipe looked like when it arrived in Idaho before my brother started cleaning it for me.Jeff took some close up photos of the bowl, rim and stamping to show the condition and the brand of the pipe. Those of you who love the 9438 did not need to see the stamping to confirm the shape but here it is. The finish was dirty with lots of debris in the grooves and crevices on the bowl and shank. The rim had a tarry build up on the back half where the cake was overflowing the bowl. The mortise was so dirty that the stem no longer seated against the shank. The GBD oval was stamped on the side of the stem and did not have a brass roundel as some of the earlier ones did.The stem was oxidized and there was tooth chatter on both the top and bottom sides near the button.The finish was a new one to me. I have not worked on a Concorde before so I wanted to learn a bit about it. I was not sure if it was a sandblast or a rustication or both. I did some searching online and found some things about it however. The GBD Concorde was made in France and was a lower priced GBD. It sported what GBD called a “take-off” brown/black stained sandblast. The top three pipes (ABC) in the photo below are from a 1976 Tinderbox Catalog I located on Chris’ Pipepages. The weblink for the pages is shown in the link that follows: http://pipepages.com/2tinderbox3.htm

The pipe I was working on was “B” in the photo below. The finish on mine was very similar but mine did not have the brass roundel on the stem as the one in the photo does. On the second page of the catalogue there is a description of the pipe. It is a little hard to read but here is the text: “GBD Breaks with Tradition and Forges Bold New Designs. A.B.C. Concorde – This latest innovation from GBD’s French factory, the Concorde, offers exceptional value in the popular price range and features a most novel “take-off” process.” The catalogue lists the retail price in 1976 at $12.50. I have a sense of what they mean by the take of process in looking at the finish. It appears that the pipe has a dark brown stain applied to the bowl. It is buffed off the high spots on the pipe giving it a contrasting appearance. At least that is what I think is meant by the take-off process. When I received the pipe it was clean inside and out. My brother had done a great job cleaning out the grime and debris. The stem fit in the mortise perfectly and all looked good. The finish was clean and faded and the oxidation on the stem had come to the surface so it was ready for me to move ahead with the restoration. I took a few photos of the pipe so you could see what it looked like when it arrived in Vancouver. The rim looked much better but still had a bit of debris on the back side. It was nothing that a little sanding with micromesh could not cure. There is some stunning grain on the rounded rim top and on the smooth parts of the bowl. There is also some peeking through the sandblast. This is a beautiful pipe and one I may well hold onto.The oxidation on the stem had been brought to the surface by the cleanup. It definitely appears worse than it did in the earlier pictures but the difference is that the oxidation is on top now and easier to deal with. The tooth marks and chatter on the stem are visible in both photos.I polished the rim and the high surfaces of the bowl with a fine grit sanding block and with 1500-4000 grit micromesh pads to raise a shine. I gave it a coat of Conservator’s Wax and  hand buffed it with a shoe brush and cloth. The photos below show the bowl after that simple treatment. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper, carefully avoiding the area around the GBD Oval stamping. I did not want to damage that. I polished the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh to begin bringing the shine to the stem.I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and did something I probably should have waited to do. I cleaned around the area of the stamp with a damp cotton pad. I applied some Rub’n Buff European Gold to the stamping and rubbed it off the surface with a cotton pad. The second photo below shows the stamp when I had finished the first application. I can justify this step by saying it is actually easier to see the stamp with a little gold in place so that I can carefully polish around it. I repeated sanding the stem with 1800-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads.I polished it with 3200-12000 grit pads and gave it a coat of Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. The shine was beginning to come through. I gave it a final coat of oil after the 12000 grit pad and set it aside to dry. I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond to polish the stem and remove the scratches that still remained on the stem. I lightly buffed the bowl to raise a shine. I gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax and the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad. The pipe began to truly shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen that shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is really a beauty and one I am thinking seriously of adding to my own collection… ahh well… we shall see. Thanks for looking.

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 Simple Refresh – a GBD New Standard 9438 Rhodesian


Blog by Steve Laug

I chose a second easy pipe to work on – another of my favourite shapes, a GBD Rhodesian. It is stamped on the left side of the shank with GBD in an oval over the words New Standard in script. On the right side of the shank it is stamped London, England over 9438. The stamping is quite readable. The finish was in decent shape. There was a light cake in the bowl and overflowing onto the topside of the rim. There was a slight burn mark on the outer edge of the rim from repeated lighting in that spot. The stem has the brass roundel on the left side of the saddle. The stem was lightly oxidized and there was tooth chatter on both the top and underside near the button. The next series of photos show the pipe when my brother received it in Idaho. He sent along a few close up photos to show the rim top and cake in the bowl. It shows the thickness of the cake and the light build up on the top. The photos that follow show the stamping on the shank sides and the roundel on the stem side. The next two photos show the tooth chatter on the top and the underside of the stem at the button. There were a lot of tiny tooth marks that covered the first inch of the stem on each side.My brother did his usual exceptional job of cleaning the pipe on the inside and out before he sent it to me in Vancouver. I ran a pipe cleaner through it when it came and it was spotless. He was able to remove much of the grime from the finish and the tars from the rim top.In the next photo you can see the burn marks around inner edge of the rim and on the front left outer edge. These would take a bit of work to minimize.I took a close up photo of the rim top to focus in on the burn marks around the edges of the bowl and rim top. I also took some photos of the stem to show the oxidation and the tooth chatter. I worked on the rim top with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads to remove the burned areas. I was glad to see that they were only surface and did not go too deep. I was able to remove them for the most part. There is a small remnant of the mark on the front edge of the rim. I polished the entire bowl with the 1500-2400 grit micromesh while I worked on the rim to begin to bring a shine to the briar. I continued to polish the rim and the bowl with 3200-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads to deepen the shine and polish the briar. I buffed the bowl lightly with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and set it aside. I worked on the stem. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth  chatter on both sides. They were not too deep so it did not take too much work to remove the marks in the vulcanite. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and then buffed it with Red Tripoli on the buffing wheel to breakdown the oxidation further. I then dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads to bring life to the rubber and to also give the micromesh something to bit in during the polishing. Once I finished with the 12000 grit pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I put the stem on the pipe and buffed the entire pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to polish out the remaining scratches. I gave the pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect it and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I took it back to the work table and hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The grain is unique and a mix of grains – flame grain, cross grain and some straight grain. There is even birdseye on the bottom and on the rim. The stain that was on the bowl is a reddish-brown and it allows the grain to shine through. It is a beautiful example of the GBD 9438 shape Rhodesian and one that will grace the pipe rack. Thanks for walking through this simple refresher with me.  

Whew, finally a simple restore of an older Imported Briar Rhodesian


Blog by Steve Laug

After all the tough restoration jobs I have been doing lately I wanted to take a breather and do an easy restore. In the box of pipes, that my brother sent there was one that fit the need perfectly. It was one of my favorite shapes, had some interesting grain and needed minimal work. Thanks to my brother Jeff, it was astonishingly clean, and smelled the same! I have missed his help on the last batch I have been working on. When he does the cleanup, it cuts my work by 2/3’s and I have the pleasure of working on a clean pipe. This Rhodesian was very clean. The first set of photos is what the pipe looked like before he did his magic. When the pipe arrived in Vancouver I was really happy with what I found. The bowl was hardly darkened inside. The finish was gone, and though there were fills, they were not the ugly pink ones that I usually find in pipes of this era. There was some slight rim darkening on the rear left side of the rim. The stem was lightly oxidized and there were light tooth marks and chatter on both the top and underside of the stem near the button. The next photos show what the pipe looked like before I started my restoration. I took close up photos of the bowl and the rim top to show how clean it was. You can also see the fills on the front of the bowl. I actually started working on it this morning before I left for work. There was no dread attached to working on this one. There were no surprises under the grime or finish. There were no cracks of major issues with the bowl. It is a sweet pipe.The close up photos of the stem show the light oxidation and the tooth marks and chatter. They are not deep so they will not be hard to work on.I sanded the oxidation, tooth marks and chatter with 220 grit sandpaper until they were removed. It did not take too much sanding to smooth out the surface of the stem. There was a small nick on the top inner edge of the button that may need to be repaired.  I will look at that after I have polished the stem more.The nick in the button disappeared as I cleaned and reshaped the button. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. After each set of three pads I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil. After the 12000 grit pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I polished the briar with micromesh pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. The briar responded really well to the polishing and the fills began to disappear into the grain of the briar. They are still visible but they no longer stand out as they did when I started. At this point I think I will leave the finish natural and waxed instead of staining it. Just because it is a habit for me I did a cursory cleaning of the inside of the pipe and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners and it was as clean as I expected. There was nothing left to clean out. It was spotless.

Because the grain looked so good and I did not find the fills to be too distracting I decided to leave the pipe unstained. I liked the look of the briar and new it would colour with time and smoking. To give the bowl a little life I wiped it down with a light coat of olive oil and put the stem back on the shank.  I buffed the entire pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel to remove the last remnants of scratching. I gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I finished by hand buffing it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe is shown in the photos below. I really like the way it looks. For a factory made pipe the way the shape follows the grain is pretty amazing. Thanks for looking.

Refreshing a New Old Stock (NOS) Mastercraft De Luxe Chubby Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

My brother found this pipe on one of his pipe hunts not long ago. It is a beautiful unsmoked, new old stock (NOS) chubby billiard. The briar is in great shape. The rim, the pristine bowl and the finish on the pipe all spoke of new pipe. I did a bit of reading on the brand to see if I could possibly date this pipe. I copied a section from Pipedia. It gives a flow of the history of the brand. Here is the link: https://pipedia.org/wiki/Mastercraft in it the text comes from a posting made by “Ted” on the Grabow Collectors Forum. He was the former Exec VP of Grabow/Mastercraft.

It doesn’t appear that Mastercraft was ever a manufacturer and bought pipes from multiple factories — mostly French and English. It survived briefly the post war recovery and then was acquired by Grabow. Ted writes:

“First a confession. From 1974 till 1984 I had several positions with Mastercraft including Executive Vice President. I also worked for Grabow from 66 till 74 and from 84 till I retired in 91. In 91, with retirement, I was President and COO for the corporation that was called “Sparta Industries”. I have seen both sides of the “fence”, and even though I never left the “employ” of Grabow, My loyalties for 10 years were with M/C.”

“United States Tobacco(UST)(Skoal and Copenhagen) bought Grabow in 69′ from the Lavietes family. In 74′ they bought M/C from Bernard Hochstein and moved it into the EXACT facility Grabow occupied. I was named “operations manager” and we were in the basement of a 4 story building in Sparta, NC.”

“M/C was STRICTLY an importer of pipes and pipe related merchandise. In 74′ when M/C moved from NYC to NC the inventory of finished goods was stored in a facility in Winston Salem, NC. Lentz Moving and Storage. Stacked 10 feet high the inventory covered 180,000 square feet….FINISHED. In my time at Grabow I had never seen that much finished stock, and the shapes, manufacturers,finishes. Heaven for a pipe smoker…..Damn right. You would have had to slap me really hard to get the grin off my face.”

“I’ll just list a few Manufacturers/names of the inventory. England:Parker/Hardcastle(Dunhill), Orlik…France: Jeantet…Jima…Cherrywoods. Italy: GIGI pipe…Radica….Rossi…Federico Rovera….Emilio Rovera….Santambrogio. Brebbia. Meerschaums from Austria: Strambach. Lighters from Japan….Pouches and accessories from Hong Kong…and the Israeli pipes from Mr. Hochstein’s sons. Trust me…This is only a small sample of the things M/C had, and bought into inventory.”

With that bit of history I know that the pipe was made prior to the buyout by Grabow in 1974. That makes the pipe at least 43 years old at this time. This one is French made probably by Jeantet. The stamping reads on the left: Mastercraft in the normal shield over De Luxe. The shield hangs from a branch like a sign. On the right side of the shank it is stamped Corsican Briar over France. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to show the unsmoked condition of it when I received it. The briar is quite beautiful though there are a few fills on the top and right side of the shank that are expertly blended into the finish. I also took a photo of the internals of the mortise and airway to show the raw briar that shines there.The stem showed signs of wear from sitting for the long years in a display case of cabinet. There were scratches, nicks and marks in the rubber that are shown in the photos below. There was a gummy substance from a label on the underside of the stem.The polished aluminum stinger apparatus in the tenon was unmarked and a shine of a new pipe.The finish on the pipe has a shiny topcoat of varnish. I took some photos of the stamping on the shank sides. The next two photos show what that looked like.I worked on the stem to polish out the scratches and nicks in the surface. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I was able to polish out all of the nicks and scratches without resorting to more invasive methods. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to further polish out the scratches. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine back to the surface. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a great piece of pipe history and one that will be available on the rebornpipes store soon. If you want to beat the traffic and add it to your collection just send me an email and it can be yours. Thanks for looking.