Blog by Steve Laug
I am back working on a of pipes that comes from the estate of an elderly gentleman here in Vancouver. I met with his daughter Farida last summer and we looked at his pipes and talked about them then. Over the Christmas holiday she brought them by for me to work on, restore and then sell for her. There are 10 pipes in all – 7 Dunhills (one of them, a Shell Bulldog, has a burned out bowl), 2 Charatans, and a Savinelli Autograph. His pipes are worn and dirty and for some folks they have a lot of damage and wear that reduce their value. To me each one tells a story. I only wish they could speak and talk about the travels they have had with Farida’s Dad.
When I wrote the blog on the Classic Series Dunhill and thinking about its travels, Farida sent me an email with a short write up on her Dad. She remembered that I had asked her for it so that I could have a sense of the stories of her Dad’s pipes. Here is what she wrote: My dad, John Barber, loved his pipes. He was a huge fan of Dunhill and his favourite smoke was St. Bruno. No one ever complained of the smell of St. Bruno, we all loved it. I see the bowls and they’re large because he had big hands. When he was finished with his couple of puffs, he would grasp the bowl in the palm of his hand, holding the warmth as the embers faded. The rough bowled pipes were for daytime and especially if he was fixing something. The smooth bowled pipes were for an evening with a glass of brandy and a good movie. In his 20s, he was an adventurer travelling the world on ships as their radio operator. He spent a year in the Antarctic, a year in the Arctic and stopped in most ports in all the other continents. He immigrated to Canada in the mid-fifties, working on the BC Ferries earning money to pay for his education. He graduated from UBC as an engineer and spent the rest of his working life as a consultant, mostly to the mining companies. Whatever he was doing though, his pipe was always close by.
She sent along this photo of him with his sled dogs in the Antarctic sometime in 1953-1954. It is a fascinating photo showing him with a pipe in his mouth. He is happily rough housing with his dogs. As a true pipeman the cold does not seem to bother him at all.Thank you Farida for sending the photo and the background story on your Dad for me to use on the blog. I find that it really explains a lot about their condition and gives me a sense of who Dad was. If your Dad was rarely without a pipe I can certainly tell which pipes were his favourites. As I looked over the pipes I noted that each of them had extensive rim damage and some had deeply burned gouges in the rim tops. The bowls seemed to have been reamed not too long ago because they did not show the amount of cake I would have expected. The stems were all covered with deep tooth marks and chatter and were oxidized and dirty. The internals of the mortise, the airway in the shank and stem were filled with tars and oils. These were nice looking pipes when her Dad bought them and they would be nice looking one more when I finished.
I finished two of the pipes and have written a blog on each of them. The first one was the Dunhill Shell with the oval shank pot (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/02/04/restoring-a-1983-dunhill-shell-41009-oval-shank-pot/) and the second was the Dunhill Classic Series Shell Billiard (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/02/08/faridas-dads-pipes-2-restoring-a-1990-lbs-classic-series-dunhill-shell-billiard/). The third pipe I restored from the estate was a Savinelli Autograph (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/02/15/faridas-dads-pipes-3-restoring-a-savinelli-autograph-4/). The fourth pipe of his that I worked on was a Dunhill Red Bark Pot that was in rough shape (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/03/10/faridas-dads-pipes-4-restoring-a-dunhill-red-bark-pot-43061/).
I went back to the remaining two Dunhills in the collection today and chose to work on a Dunhill Root Briar 56 Bent Billiard. It was so dirty it was hard to read the stamping on the sides. I could see that it was worn but I could not tell much else looking through the thick grime. The smooth finish sticky with oils and thick grime and the bowl felt oily to touch. I wiped off the oils and grime on the shank sides to see the stamping. It was worn but readable. On the left side of the shank it reads Dunhill over Root Briar. To the left of the stamping is the shape number 56. On the right side of the shank there is a faint stamp R with 4 in a circle. The rest of the stamping is very faint.
I turned to a blog I have on rebornpipes by Eric Boehme on Dunhill Shapes and looked for the shape number stamped on this pipe. Here is the link. https://rebornpipes.com/2012/11/01/dunhill-pipe-shapes-collated-by-eric-w-boehm/. I did a screen capture of the section on Bent Billiards and circled the pipe I have in hand in red. The shape number 56 is noted as a bent billiard size 4. It is noted as 5 ½ inches long just as the one I have is. It is listed as coming out in 1928, 1950, 1960 and 1969. The spread of dating was pretty large and the stamping so unreadable that I could not determine the date with that normal help. It was time to move on and look for other helpful information to see if I could narrow things down a bit.
I turned to another site that I use often – the pipephil website on Logos and Stampings because there is some really helpful information on when each of the lines of Dunhill pipes entered the market. Here is the link to the section of the site that I turned to, http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/root-bru-guide.html. I did a screen capture of a portion of the chart that gave me the time frame for this particular pipe. I circled the date and brand in red in the photo below. It looks like the Root Briar came out between 1960 and 1970. Now I knew that one I was working on a pipe that came from that era – which incidentally matched the other pipes in Farida’s Dad’s estate collection.The bowl was thickly caked and the cake had flowed over onto the smooth Root Briar finish on the rim top forming hard lava that made the top uneven. The inner and outer edges of the rim were both damaged. On the right front of the bowl the rim had been scraped and damaged and then burned. On the back edge there was the same kind of damage that was on the other Dunhill pipes in this estate. This one however was not quite as deep so it would need to be dealt with a bit differently when I got to that point. The stem was lightly oxidized but otherwise in good condition. There were light tooth marks and chatter on both sides in front of the button. The Dunhill white spot was intact on the top of the stem. I took photos of the pipe to show what it looked like before I started the cleanup work. I took close up photos of the bowl and rim top as well as the stem. You can see the condition of the rim top and bowl in the first photo. The outer edge has damage on the front right – burn damage and wear that comes from lighting a pipe repeatedly in the same spot. The back left side also shows damage on the inner edge. There was damage from what looked like a poor rim job. The stem has tooth chatter and some bite marks on the top and the underside of the stem just ahead of the button.I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and used two of the four cutting heads to clean out the cake. The bowl thickly caked so I started with the smaller of the two and worked my way up to the second one which was about the same size as the bowl diameter. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to remove the remnants of cake. I finished by sanding the inside of the bowl with a dowel wrapped in sandpaper. I scrubbed the surface of the briar with alcohol and cotton pads. I scrubbed until I had removed the sticky tars and oils on the finish. I worked on the top of the rim with the edge of the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I scraped the heavy buildup that was there. I scrubbed the scraped rim top with alcohol and cotton pads to remove the debris. I dried off the bowl with a soft rag. The cleaned and scrubbed pipe really made the rim top damage very clear. It looked to me that I would need to top the bowl. I topped the bowl on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damage to the top surface of the rim and clean up the damage to the edges. I did not have to remove a lot and repeatedly checked it to make sure that I had removed enough but not too much. I wanted to take the top down until it was smooth up to the burn damaged area on the rim top.I wiped down the rim top with alcohol and cotton pads to remove the sanding dust. I built up the damaged area on the rim with clear super glue and briar dust. I layered it until the height of the damaged area was roughly equal to the rim top. The third photo below shows the top at this point in the process. I took photos of the repaired bowl from a variety of angles to show what the repair looked like before I sanded and cleaned it up. I would need to top the bowl again to smooth things out and work on the edges. I topped the bowl again to remove the excess repair material. I worked it over the sandpaper on the board until the surface was smooth. I used a folded piece of 150 and 220 grit sandpaper to bevel the inside edge of the bowl. With the externals clean it was time to clean out the mortise and shank and airway into the bowl and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. I scraped the mortise with a dental spatula to loosen the tars before cleaning. I worked on the bowl and stem until the insides were clean.I used a Cherry stain pen to touch up the rim and match the colour of the rest of the pipe.I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth finish to clean, enliven and protect the new finish. It also evened out the stain coat and gave the stain a dimensional feel. I let the balm sit for a little wall and then buffed it with a horsehair shoe brush. I buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. There was some darkening on the bowl front but the briar was solid. Overall the bowl looked really good. I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the tooth chatter on both sides with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish, using both the Fine and Extra Fine polishes to further protect and polish out the scratches. When I finished with those I gave it a final rub down with the oil and set it aside to dry. With the stem polished I put it back on the pipe and lightly buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond. I buffed the stem with a more aggressive buff of Blue Diamond. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This is the fifth of Farida’s Dad’s pipes that I am restoring from his collection. I am looking forward to hearing what Farida thinks once she sees the finished pipe on the blog. This one is already sold to a fellow in India. It will soon be on its way to him to carry on the trust from Farida’s father. The dimensions are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ inches. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another of the Dunhills. More of his pipes will follow including some one more Dunhill and two Charatans. The last photo of the front of the bowl shows the darkening to the briar that remains. It is solid and the burn mark does not compromise the briar. It looks worse in this photo than it does in reality. It is a dark spot that is solid.