Tag Archives: refinish

A Unique BBB Tigergrain Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

This unique pipe has become a favourite of mine. I have not seen one like it since I picked this one up. It is stamped on the left side with the BBB logo (three B’s in a Diamond) and under that TIGERGRAIN. There is a small nick in the shank just below the stamping. On the right side it is stamped London England over the shape number 420. The stem is a translucent blue green almost like some of the glass pieces that my grandmother had in her sideboard. It has the brass BBB logo in a diamond inserted. When it came to me it was dirty. The bowl had a thick cake and needed to be reamed. The stem was darkened with brown stains in the airway. The rim was tarred and had some dents that were quite deep. The finish was in pretty good shape other than the deep set grit and grime. The bands around the bowl were filled in with grit as well. Underneath it all I knew there was a uniquely beautiful pipe.

I reamed the bowl back to the briar. I like to start with a clean pipe, as I find I can exorcise previous ghosts more easily that way. I wiped down the surface with Murphy’s Oil Soap, undiluted, and scrubbed the rim with a soft bristle tooth brush. Once I had the grime and grit removed I buffed it with White Diamond on the buffing wheel and then steamed out the dents on the bowl and rim. I do this with a damp cloth and a hot table knife. I heat the knife over the gas flame on my cook stove and then put the damp cloth on the dent and apply the hot knife. The hiss and the steam released seem to raise the dents in the briar. I then buffed the pipe yet again and polished it with carnauba. The grain has a striped look to it which is the reason for the tigergrain stamping I suppose. I love the look of the grain and the patina on the old pipe.

I then turned my attention to the stem. I used some goop hand cleaner on a pipe cleaner and scoured the airway on the stem. It took quite a few pipe cleaners and patience to get the brown stains and oils out of the translucent stem. Once that was done I also needed to deal with the tooth chatter on the stem. I used heat on the stem first – a quick pass over the heat gun did the trick. Care had to be exercised so as not to heat the stem too much and straighten the bend or melt it. I used micromesh pads 1500-6000 grits to polish the stem after that. Once I was satisfied that the marks were smooth I reinserted the stem on the bowl and gave the entirety a final buff with White Diamond and then several applications of carnauba wax. I finished by buffing the pipe with a clean flannel buff.

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It is a comfortable pipe in hand and mouth. It measures just under 6 inches long. The bowl is ¾ inch in diameter. It smokes very well and has proved to be a great Virginia Flake pipe. I find the colour of the stem is a cool and relaxing bonus to the smoke.

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Restemmed Petersons 69 – Second Try was a Charm


I had this old Peterson 69 bowl in my refurb bin for quite awhile. It is stamped also on the other side K&P Dublin, Made in the Republic of Ireland. I cleaned and reamed the bowl and cleaned out the mortise area with cotton swabs. I wiped the bowl down with acetone to remove the surface grime. I topped the bowl as it had major dents and roughening on the top from abuse. It needed a stem so I researched the kind of stem it needed and called a Peterson repair person in the states to have one sent to me.

Here is where the story gets a bit dicey. All I really wanted was to have the stem sent and I would fit it to the pipe but I let myself be talked into sending it south. It came back with the wrong stem on it and also had some serious cut marks on the tenon end. It also was a stem for a p-lip system pipe and the 69 is not a system pipe as far as I can tell. I was a bit frustrated to say the least so I set it aside for a week or two before calling the repairman and letting him know what I was feeling. I have to say that it is frustrating to expect one thing and get another. It is also frustrating to know that I could have done the work myself in less time if only I had a stem blank that I could have used.

I sent it back to him for a redo and included this internet photo of the pipe with the stem.
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When it finally came back it was better – see the photos below. It was much better so I decided I was done with sending it back. Two times is enough. Once it was back I finished working on the rim and the rest of the bowl. I stained it with a medium brown aniline stain. It took the stain well and came out a reddish brown colour. I buffed it with Tripoli and White Diamond to polish the stem so the grain would show through. I finished it with several coats of carnauba wax and buffed with a soft flannel buff. The silver ferrule was polished with silver polish. It is a good smoker and is comfortable in the mouth.
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Restoring an Astor Belge


This was one of the pipes I picked up recently on a trip to the US. It is a small Astor Belge shape which is one of my favourite shapes of pipes. Astor pipes were made by Comoy as a second line of pipes. From the number of fills on this one it can easily be seen why it is a second. It is a shame as it also has some amazing cross grain on the front and back and some beautiful birdseye among the fills on both sides. The extent of the birdseye grain can be seen in the second photo below.

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The pipe was dirty but really in pretty good shape for its age. I reamed the bowl and cleaned the bowl and shank with Isopropyl alcohol (99%) to remove the tars and oils from the inside. Then I dropped the stem in some oxyclean to soak and wiped the bowl down with acetone (fingernail polish remover) to remove the finish. I dropped the bowl in the alcohol bath for awhile to give it a good soak and worked on several others for awhile.

After an hour in the bath, I removed the bowl and dried it off. The next series of three photos show the pipe after removal from the bath. I used micromesh 1500 grit sanding pads to remove the grime and tar from the rim and the inside bevelled edge. It took a bit of work to smooth this out and keep the angles the same all the way around. The third photo below shows the finished bevel and the top after quite a bit of sanding. The top took a bit more sanding with the micromesh to remove the darkening as it was on the surface and not too deep into the briar.

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At that point I decided to remove the fills from the bowl as I personally dislike the pink putty fills that are often used on these old timers. I used the dental pick to remove the as can be seen in the next series of three photos. They were all pretty deep and would need to be repaired. After picking out the fill I wipe the bowl down with a soft cloth and Isopropyl alcohol to clean the surface of any remaining bits of putty. When they are clean and dry I fill them with briar dust that I have saved for this purpose.

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After filling them with briar dust I drip the super glue/krazy glue into the dust and it dries almost instantly. The next three photos show the newly filled holes at various stages of the repair. The first photo shows the dust and super glue in the bottom holes before I sanded them. The top holes in the photo have been sanded a bit to smooth them out but are not finished. The second photo of the front of the bowl shows both the sanded ones and a newly filled hole with the super glue patch before it dried. The final photo in this series of three shows all the holes filled and the initial sanding completed.

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The next two photos sow the holes patched and sanded smooth. The super glue and briar dust turned black in this case. This does not always happen but it did this time. I have no explanation for that in this case but they do look better than the previous pink fills. I have also learned that they can be hidden a bit with a dark understain. In this case I decided to stain the entire bowl with black aniline stain for a first coat. I flamed the stain and when it dried I took the pipe to the buffer and buffed the entire bowl with Tripoli to remove the excess stain and leave the black in the grain and around the fills. You can also use black permanent marker to build the grain pattern around the fills to help hide them though I did not use that method on this pipe. I then sanded the bowl with the 1500 and 1800 grit micromesh pads to remove more of the overstain. I washed the bowl down several times with acetone to also lighten the black. Once it was at the saturation I wanted it was ready for the overcoat of stain.

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I decided to use oxblood coloured aniline stain for the finish coat on this one. I wiped it on and then wiped it off before it dried to get good coverage I repeated that several times and finally gave it a full coat and flamed the stain to set it. When it was dry I took it to the buffer and buffed it with Tripoli and White Diamond to give the final coat a real shine.

I finished the stem with my usual regimen of micromesh pads from 1500-6000 before putting it back on the bowl and buffing the pipe with White Diamond. I coated the stem with several coatings of Obsidian Oil and then gave the whole pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax to finish. The pictures below show the finished pipe. Though the fills are still visible they are diminished in their overall presence in the pipe. They no longer stand out in the finish. I personally love the depth of colour that this old Belge has with the new stains.

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Keyser Hygienic Patent Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

Over the past year I have been picking up these Keyser Hygienic pipes on EBay. This one makes the third one I have picked up at a reasonable price. They are made in England and sold exclusively in South Africa. The word is that they were designed to be virtually indestructible for farmer pipe smokers in SA. All versions of the pipe have the same stem – one size fits all. They seem to be made of nylon and rubber or some combination. They are tough and take tooth wear very well. Two of the three I picked up are older and both had the original stems on them. They had tooth chatter and minor dents. Steaming would not raise the dents at all. I had to deal with them with sandpaper and micromesh sanding pads.

The photo below came from the web and pictures a cutaway picture of the pipe and the unique condensing chamber that makes up the patented portion of the pipe. The shank has an aluminum condensing chamber with a tube in the centre that lines up with the tube inside the stem. It is pointing downward so air swirls around in the chamber formed by the military bit stem and the shank. Moisture is trapped and the smoke is cool and dry without loss of flavour.

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The pipe I am working on this time is a pot shaped sand blasted pipe. The aluminum was oxidized and dull the blast was dirty and the crevices filled with dirt and grime. The stem was in pretty clean shape other than the tooth chatter near the button. The rim of the bowl was tarred and caked. The cake was uneven and tapering in the bowl – almost as if the bowl was only half filled and smoked that way the majority of the time. The upper portion of the bowl had a very thin layer of cake and the lower portion a thick uneven cake. The condenser in both the stem and the shank were filled with a dark brown tar and the airway was constricted in the shank and clogged in the stem. The photo below shows the condition of the bowl and the stem and highlight where the work would be needed to clean up the exterior of this pipe.

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I reamed the bowl back to bare briar and scrubbed the blast surface with a brass tire brush to clean out the crevices. I also used a soft bristle tooth brush to finish cleaning the surface off. Once that was done I put the bowl in the alcohol bath to soak while I worked on the stem. The next two photos below show the stem after I used 240 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth marks and slight dents. I then used micromesh pads from 1500-6000 grit to polish the stem and work out the scratches. I have learned the hard way that you cannot buff these stems on the buffer as a little bit of surface heat from the buffing pads melts and distorts the surface. So these stems are totally buffed and polished by hand.

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The next two photos show the stem after it has been sanded up to the 3200 grit micromesh pad. The stem is beginning to get a shine and the scratches are disappearing with the sanding. From this point I went on the sand the stem through the remaining micromesh grits and when finished I gave it a coating of Obsidian Oil to penetrate the surface and give it a deep polish. Once that dried I buffed it by hand with some carnauba wax in paste form that I purchased from Walker Briar Works.ImageImage

From the next series of photos you can see that I interrupted my work on the stem to remove the bowl from the alcohol bath. I did that because I was curious to see how it was cleaning up. You will notice in these photos the brownish grey sludge in the grooves of the blast. I used the tooth brush once again to scrub the surface with Isopropyl from the alcohol bath. Once the grime was removed I washed the bowl down with clean Isopropyl and dried it off.

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The next series of photos show the dried bowl. The grime is gone and the finish is now down to the stain. Even some of the top coat of stain has been removed and you can see the briar. I laid the bowl aside and finished up the stem as I described it above.

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The aluminum condensing chamber on the shank and the chamber in the stem needed much work. I used cotton swabs that I flattened to clean the area inside the shank around the airway extension and the same in the stem. Once that was clean I polished the oxidized aluminum with the micromesh pads to burnish the aluminum and get the shine back.

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I then restained the bowl with a dark brown stain, knowing that when I buffed it the reddish brown undercoat would shine through on the high spots and the dark would fill the crevices and give the pipe a contrast stain. The next series of three photos show the staining and the way the various grains took the stain. The right side of the bowl has a great ring blast that is fairly deep and craggy. The left side is more of a blast on birdseye. It is an interesting looking blast. The bowl rim came out clean as well and shows an interesting contrast in the light of the flash.

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The final series of four photos show the finished pipe. The entirety has been given a coat of wax. I used Halcyon II on the blast to polish it without leaving the white residue in the grain of the blast when it dried. I buffed it by hand. The stem received another hand applied coat of carnauba wax and a buff by hand. The pipe pictured is clean and ready to smoke.

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I have included pictures below of the other two Keyser pipes that I picked up and refurbished. The top one is an apple with really nice grain. I have been smoking this one and enjoying the dry and cool smoke that it gives. The second is a smaller prince shape that is no longer available. It had some burns on the rim that are still visible but it too smokes very well. One day will rework the rim a bit and minimize the burn marks. Till then I will smoke these Keyser’s and keep an eye for more of them.

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Refurb on a Dr. Plumb Tween Size Prince


Blog by Steve Laug

Off the workbench today is a nice little Dr. Plumb Tween Size Prince (that is what the stamping on this one says). It was pretty rough looking as can be seen from the before shots. I had reamed it before I remembered to take the photos, so the bowl is very clean in the photo below.

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The bowl, in fact, was very dirty with tars and crumbling cake as well as a thick white “gunk”, for lack of a better word, in the bowl and all the way through the shank. I have no idea what it was other than the fact that it had a plastic feel to it. It was stringy and literally all over the inside of the bowl and shank. I had never seen anything like this in the years I have been refurbishing pipes. It came out with the reaming of the bowl and out of the shank with alcohol soaked pipe cleaners and a shank brush. It took some time to clear it out. Many pipe cleaners later it was clean. The state of the bowl when I got it told me that obviously this little guy (5 inches long, group one sized bowl) was a great smoker.

I stuffed the bowl with cotton bolls and filled it with alcohol using an ear syringe.

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I removed the stem and put a cork in the shank so that the alcohol would go all the way into the shank. I wanted to make sure that all of the remnants of white stuff and tars were removed from the bowl before I went further in cleaning it. I left it overnight and the next morning removed the cotton bolls and plug and cleaned out the bowl and stem with pipe cleaners. The bowl smelled fresh and almost new once that final cleaning was done and the alcohol evaporated. The bowl was then dropped in an alcohol bath for a soak. While it was soaking I went to work on the stem.

The stem took quite a bit of work to restore as it was badly oxidized. I had soaked it in Oxyclean while I worked on the bowl so now when I took it out the oxidation had softened. I buffed it with Tripoli, sanded with 240 grit sandpaper, buffed again with Tripoli, sanded with 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper until I was able to get the grit off and then polished with micromesh pads from1500-6000 grit. Each level of micromesh gives the stem a deeper polish and shine to the stem. In buffing a stem by itself, I always avoid the saddle area or the area next to where it joins the shank as it is very easy to over buff this area and make rounded shoulders on the stem and ruin the stem/shank junction. Once that was finished I laid it aside with a coat of Obsidian Oil and turned again to the bowl.

I removed the bowl from the alcohol bath and dried it off. The bath removed the remnant of finish and all of the oils and grime on the bowl. I used the 3200 and 4000 grit micromesh pads to sand down the bowl, being careful to not damage the stamping. Once it was smooth, I wiped it down with a soft cloth dampened with Isopropyl alcohol to remove the sanding dust and then stained the pipe with a light cherry coloured aniline stain. (I mixed the stain by adding Isopropyl to the oxblood stain until it was basically a light cherry coloured wash.) I flamed it and then put the stem on and buffed both the bowl and stem with White Diamond and finished it with several coats of carnauba wax. Here is the pipe ready to smoke!

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Refurb – A Pair of Custombilt Look A Likes


I just finished up on these two Custom Bilt look a likes. The Rhodesian shaped pipe has no stamping other than Imported Briar. The bent pot is stamped Aged Imported Briar on one side and Ben Rogers on the other side. I am not familiar with the brand. So if anyone has information on it please post it here. I would appreciate learning about the twosome.

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Both pipes needed quite a bit of work to make them smokeable once more. The bowls had a thick cake and each one of them still stuffed with half a bowl of tobacco. The stems were rough and pitted from the oxidation and had a white lime like coat on them. They were very dirty inside and out. I cleaned them with a shank brush, bristle pipe cleaners and finished with fluffy ones all dipped in isopropyl alcohol until they came out clean. I buffed the stems with Tripoli after cleaning them to try and break down the coat of oxidation. It did not do much so I put them both in a bath of Oxyclean to soak. I find that though it does not remove the oxidation it does soften it considerably and makes sanding and buffing it off much easier.

Once they were soaking I turned to the bowls. First I reamed them both to remove the crumbling and uneven cake. I generally take them back to bare wood when they are in this state or at the most leave a thin bit of cake on the walls. I cleaned the rims with alcohol and a soft cloth and sanded it with 600 wet dry sandpaper to remove the tar deposits and carbon on them. Once that was done I dropped them in the alcohol bath to wet them and scrubbed them with a soft bristle toothbrush. I find that on the smooth and semi-rusticated finish of these pipes the tooth brush works very well to remove deep seated grime and loosen oils and dirt.  I then left them to soak while I went back to the stems.

After the soak the stems came clean pretty easily with 240 grit sandpaper, 400 and 600 wet dry sand paper and a finishing buff with Tripoli. I worked on them for a while with the sandpapers and Tripoli and then used White Diamond for the final polishing buff. I was careful to not buff the last bit around the stem edge that would meet the shank. I would finish it once the bowls were stained and ready. Then I would buff them together with carnauba wax.

By the time I was done with the stems the bowls were ready. I took them out of the bath and wiped them down. Once they were dry I restained them both with a medium brown aniline stain, flamed the stain and then buffed them with White Diamond to remove excess stain and give a contrast between the smooth portions and the rustication. I hand waxed them both with Halcyon wax and buffed with a soft cotton cloth.

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Custom-Bilt Saddle Billiard Comes Back to Life


Blog by Steve Laug

It was a pleasure to refurbish this original Custom-Bilt (note the hyphenated title). I have always loved the rugged individualism of Tracy Mincer’s pipes. They are like none of their imitators in terms of character and sheer smoke-ability. They feel great in the hand; have and open draw and generally a comfortable stem. They are nothing pretty to look at yet there is something endearing about their “ugliness”. This old pipe was in very rough shape when I started to work on it. I apologize up front in that I forgot to grab the camera to take pictures of the pipe when I began the work. My words will have to suffice as I tell you about it. There was still a dry and almost petrified dottle of tobacco left in the bottom of the bowl. The cake that was on the walls was filled with cracks and major chunks of it were missing. The only way to remedy that was to ream it. The exterior of the bowl had a very tarred and sticky rim and the finish was gone and flecks of white paint were all over the crevices of the rustication. The stem was dull brownish green with a white crust around the button and up the stem a good half inch. This stuff was like concrete.

I always start my refurbishing process by addressing the issues of the bowl. That way as it soaks I can work on the stem. I scraped out the petrified dottle and reamed the broken cake back to bare wood. I cleaned the inside of the shank with a shank brush and bristle and fluffy pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol until they came out clean. I wiped down the exterior of both the shank and bowl with a rub of alcohol. When finished it was dropped in the alcohol bath for most of the morning while I worked on the stem.

I went to work on the stem. I decided to buff it with black Tripoli (coarse polishing compound) to address the hard crust on the front of the stem and the general oxidation on the blade of the stem before the saddle. I did not want to work on the saddle with it off the shank as it is too easy to round the edges and spoil the fit. After buffing it was sanded with 240 grit sandpaper to finish breaking through the white crust. Once it was gone the rest of the stem was cleaned up with my normal list of 400, 600 grit wet dry (with water), and then micromesh pads – 1500, 1800, 2400, 3200, and 4000 grit. I also used the wet dry sandpaper and the pads to careful work on the saddle portion of the stem. Upon completion the entirety was given a coat of Obsidian Oil and then waxed with carnauba.

I set the stem aside and retrieved the bowl from the alcohol bath. As I took it from the bath I scrubbed it with a brass bristle tire brush to get into the crevices on the pipe and the rustication. It was a mess with some paint in the rustication. The alcohol had removed the grime and the wire brush removed the paint flecks. Just a reminder – I use a soft bristled brass white wall tire brush in these instances as the bristles do not damage the surface of the briar. When the bowl was clean I wiped it down with isopropyl on a cotton boll. It was ready to restained with a medium brown aniline stain. I applied the stain with the dauber that comes with the Fiebings Shoe Dye (aniline stain), flamed it and set it aside to dry thoroughly. Once it was dry I buffed it with White Diamond on my buffer and then applied a coat of Halcyon Wax and buffed it by hand with a cotton cloth.

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