Tag Archives: rebuilding a chipped button with black super glue

Breathing Life into a Custom-Bilt Rhodesian


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to us on 10/14/2017 from now closed antique shop in Pocatello, Idaho, USA. The pipe is a classic Custom-Bilt piece – a rusticated Diamond shank Rhodesian shaped pipe with some deep carving around the bowl. The pipe is stamped on the left underside of the shank and reads Custom-Bilt [over] Imported Briar. On the right underside of the shank it bears a carved square near the stem/shank junction. The bowl was heavily caked with a an overflow of lava on the smooth rim top toward the back and on the inner edge. The inside edges looked to be in good condition. The finish was dirty but the pipe still has a sense of charm. The stem was dirty and lightly oxidized. It had tooth chatter and marks on the top and underside near the button. The was a chipped area on the topside edge of the button. There were no markings or a logo on the saddle stem. It had promise but it was very dirty. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. He took photos of the rim top and bowl to give a clear picture of the thickness of the cake and tobacco debris as well as the lava on the smooth rim top. He also took photos of the top and underside of the stem to show the oxidation and the chatter and tooth marks. The photo of the topside of the stem also shows the chipped edge of the button. Jeff took a photo of the heel of the bowl to give a picture of what the briar looked like. The rustication pattern around the bowl is instantly recognizable as done by Custom-Bilt. The stamping on the left underside of the shank and the right underside at the shank/stem joint is clear and readable and read as noted above.   I turned to Pipephil (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-c8.html) to get a quick view of the brand once again. I knew that I was working with one of the older pipes and probably made by Tracy Mincer himself. He stopped making the Custom-Bilt pipes in the early 1950s. The screen capture I included below shows a brief history of the brand. It also has a comment on the symbols stamped on the shank near the stem including the square that is stamped on this one.I turned to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/File:CustomBilt_Stamp1.jpg) for a quick read. The majority of the information there included two book reviews of the “Custom-Bilt Story” by Bill Unger.

The one line I culled was the following: “Tracy Mincer started the original Custom-Bilt pipes it appears in 1934”.

I did a screen capture of the stamping that matched the stamping on the pipe that I am working on. What I learned from that is that the stamp was used by Tracy Mincer in Indianapolis in the US from 1938-1946 and possibly in Chicago before 1938 as well. So now I had a possible date for this pipe. It was an old timer and it was well worth working on.Armed with that information I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had cleaned up the pipe with his usual penchant for thoroughness. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet pipe reamer and removed the rest of it with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub and a tooth brush and rinsed it off with warm water. I took photos of the pipe before I started my part of the restoration work. The rim top and the inner edge had some darkening and wear that would need to be addressed. The outer edge of the bowl look very good. The stem surface looked good with a few small tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. The biggest issue was the chipped button on the tops side.    The stamping on left side of the shank is clear and readable. I failed to take photos of the stamping on the heel and right side but they to are clear. It is stamped as noted above.I removed the stem and took a photo of the pipe to give a sense of the whole. It is a proportionally pleasing pipe.I started my work on the pipe by addressing the darkening on the rim top and cleaning up the damage to the inner edge of the rim. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to reshape the edge and to clean up the rim top. The finished rim top and edge looks better.    I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads to develop a deep shine on the smooth portions of the bowl. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding debris.   The bowl looked good at this point so I rubbed it down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for about 10-15 minutes and buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine.  I set the bowl aside and turned to work on the stem. I rebuilt the chipped button with black rubberized super glue. It was not a large chip and the glue would do the trick with it. I folded a pipe cleaner and greased it with Vaseline. I slipped it in place in the slot under the chipped area. I filled the chip in with the super glue. I rebuilt the inside edge using a tooth pick. I filled in the deep tooth marks with black super glue at the same time.  Once the repair cured I used a pottery trimmer blade to shape the inside of the slot. I need to do some light patching still to take care of some air bubbles in the inside edge. I also flattened the repair on the topside and shaped the button edge on both sides with a small flat file. It is starting to look very good.I sanded the button edges and the repairs on the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the vulcanite. I started polishing it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper.     I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.     This Custom-Bilt Rhodesian is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored. The style of rustication that is used around the bowl is highlighted by the stain application and works well with both the shape and the polished vulcanite stem. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Custom-Bilt is another pipe that fits nicely in the hand and feels great. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 40 grams/1.41 ounces. I will be putting it on the rebornpipes store in the American Pipemakers Section shortly. If you are interested in adding this pipe to your collection send me a message or an email. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!

Life for a Beautiful Sandblast Il Ceppo Made By Hand Triangle 1 Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

I have finished many of the pipes on my desk for refurbishing or repair and decided it was time to do something a little different that was a lot less work. I turned again to the group of 42 pipes that Jeff and I purchased from a pipeman who can no longer smoke because serious illness. It is a pleasure to be able to support this Brother of the Briar in this very hard season of his life. He had some beautiful pipes in his collection and with some work we will get them cleaned up and into the hands of other pipemen and women who can carry on the legacy of the briar.

The fourth of the pipes that I am working on is a large Il Ceppo Sandblast Billiard. It has a very nice sandblast with different brown stains highlighting the peaks and valleys. It is stamped on the left side of the shank Il Ceppo in an arch. On the right side of the shank it is stamped C3068. On the underside of the shank it is stamped Made by Hand over in Italy. Just over that stamp there is a small triangle with a 1 in the center. It is another nice piece of briar that is shown by the sandblast. The tapered stem is acrylic and has a large C inlaid in the top. When it arrived at Jeff’s house and he opened the box he could see it was a beautifully grained piece of briar and an interestingly carved pipe. The pipe was dirty but there was no significant damage to the bowl or stem. The rim top had darkening and tars in the sandblast of the inward beveled rim. But it did not appear to be burned or charred. There was a thick cake in the bowl. The acrylic stem was in good condition – just a little dirty and tooth chatter on both sides of the stem near the button. There was also a small chip in the left side of the button on the underside. Overall the pipe was a beautiful and a dirty pipe that must have been a favourite smoker. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his clean up work.Jeff took photos of the bowl and the rim top to show the condition of the bowl and rim. You can see the lava and darkening on the rim top. You can also see the cake in the bowl and the tobacco debris stuck to the walls. Jeff took photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the finish – the grime and grit all over the sides and bottom of the bowl. The overall finish looks good. It is a dirty pipe but the sandblast grain is absolutely stunning.   He took photos of the stamping on the left and underside of the shank. He missed the number on the right side of the shank. The stamping was very readable as noted above. It is a beauty!  The acrylic stem has an inlaid C inlaid top side. He took some photos of the acrylic stem surfaces to show their condition. There were not any tooth marks just some calcification and light chatter ahead of the button on both sides. You can also see the chip on the underside of the button. I have pointed it out with a red arrow to help identify it quickly.I turned then to Pipedia to see what I could find out about Il Ceppo pipes. I read through the Il Ceppo page written by the pipemaker and then the next section of the page written by RD Field. Here is the link to that page on Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Il_Ceppo). I will quote from the section on the line below.

The IL CEPPO brand has been in production since the late 1970’s but, in spite of its overall good value, is not well known in all parts of the United States. Partly this is because of a limited supply of pipes and partly because the brand has not been put in front of the pipe smoking public through a national venue.

The Il Ceppo brand is made in Pesaro, Italy and is part of the famous Pesaro school of design that has also produced Mastro de Paja and Ser Jacopo. That all three brands have similar characteristics can be seen at a glance, but they all have significant differences as well.

Giorgio Imperatori, an architect, had a passion for pipes, and in 1978 began to design and make Il Ceppo. Always considered a good value and very good for smoking, the brand did not make folks stop and take notice until 1995 when Franco Rossi joined the firm. He brought with him a true elegance of design and a unique flair that now helps Il Ceppo stand apart. Giorgio has retired to his farmhouse, and the pipes are now all made by Franco and his sister Nadia.

Individuals involved in the creation and continuation of the Il Ceppo brand are; Giorgio Imperatori (now retired from pipe making); Franco Rossi who, along with his sister Nadia, are the current Il Ceppo pipe makers; Mario Lubinski, the distributor of the Il Ceppo brand in Italy; Massimo Palazzi who worked with Il Ceppo until 1998 when he founded his own brand, L’Anatra.

I turned to Pipephil’s site (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-i.html) to gather additional information. I have included a screen capture below of the section on the brand.From the notes on that page it confirms RD Field’s information. Brand founded by Giorgio Imperatori in 1977 (first period) and bought by Franco Corinaldesi Rossi (second period, about 1996) when Giorgio retired. Franco and his sister Nadia are the current (2011) Il Ceppo pipe makers.

I also found that the section on the grading system on the Pipephil site was really helpful in identifying and reading the stamping on the pipe in my hands.

Grading system.

Pipes from the first period:

    “Il Ceppo” stamping slightly curved

    A to H and a 4-5 digit number

    Group number in a triangle

Putting together all of the information on the pipe I can summarize what I have learned. I knew now that the pipe on my table war from the First Period (1977-1996). The Il Ceppo stamping is slightly curved on this one. It is also stamped on the right side of the shank C3068. The group number in the triangle on this one is 1.

Now I had the information I wanted to know on the brand it was time to begin to work with it and clean it up. It really is a beautiful pipe. I am getting more and more used to Jeff cleaning up the pipes before I work on them. So much so that when I have to clean them it is a real chore! This pipe was dirty just like the other ones in the collection. I did not know what to expect when I unwrapped it from his box. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until the pipe was clean. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime and grit on the briar and the lava on the rim top. The finish looked really good once it was clean. There was no damage and the sandblast stood out with stark contrast around the bowl. The rim top showed some beautiful sandblasted birdseye on the beveled surface. He cleaned the stem internals and scrubbed the exterior and the result looked very good. When the pipe arrived here in Vancouver for the second stop of its restoration tour it was impressive. I took photos before I started my part of the work. I took some close up photos of the rim top and also of the stem surface. I wanted to show what an amazing job Jeff did in the cleanup of the rim top. It was a real beauty. The sandblast really highlighted the grain patterns on the rim top and they were very clean! I also took close up photos of the stem to show condition it was in. It would not take a lot of work – just sanding out the light tooth chatter and polishing with micromesh sanding pads. There was also a chip out of the underside of the button on the left that needed to be addressed. (I have pointed it out with a red arrow.)I took photos of the stamping on the shank of the pipe. On the left it read il ceppo. On the right side was the number as explained above – C3068 and underside of the shank it reads Made by Hand in Italy.   Because Jeff had done such a great job cleaning this pipe and the end result really shone my work on the bowl was very minimal. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the finish of the bowl, the rim top and shank with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I find that the balm really makes the briar come alive again. The contrasts in the layers of stain really made the grain stand out. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The pipe really looks good at this point. I am very happy with the way the pipe is looking at this point in the process.  I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I filled in the chipped area on the button with clear Super Glue first as it hardens very quickly and provides a solid bond to the existing acrylic material. I followed that with several layers of black Super Glue to get the transition right. I used a needle file to recut the button and shape the area. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to finish shaping and started polishing it with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I sanded the light tooth chatter on the top side and the repaired area and sanded area on the underside of the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each pad to remove the sanding debris. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both fine and extra fine. I hand buffed it with a cloth. This was another fun pipe to work on since Jeff had done the heavy work in cleaning it. Once I was finished I put the acrylic stem back on the bowl and polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The dimensionality of the sandblast is vibrant. The pipe polished up really well. The polished acrylic stem seemed to truly come alive with the buffing. This is a big pipe and it feels great in my hand and I am sure that the sandblast finish will make feel even better radiating the heat of a good smoke. It must have been a fine smoking pipe judging from the condition it was when we received it from the pipeman who we bought it from. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This is one beauty that is eye catching. I will be putting it on the rebornpipes store shortly. If you are interested in adding it to your collection email or message me. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next pipeman or woman.