Tag Archives: refinishing


Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

For after all, the best thing one can do
When it is raining, is to let it rain.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in “The Poet’s Tale: The Birds of Killingworth,” in Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863)

Longfellow’s powerful poem is about man’s intolerant bent for all things natural based on ignorance of the indispensability of even the smallest part in an ecosystem.  It speaks to acceptance and “gentleness, and mercy to the weak, and reverence for Life.”  The work is sad and satirical and, in the end, surprising in its song of survival, but, alas, will never be required reading in any public school.

Knute of Denmark is a second of Karl Erik, which Karl Erik Ottendahl (1942-2004) made his main brand.  Ottendahl, an underrated and generous pipe maker who was a low-paid lithographer before he took up pipe carving as a hobby until it became his full-time vocation, understood the average smoker who made far less money than those fortunate enough to afford expensive varieties of the Danish freehand style of which he was an early crafter.  He therefore dedicated his life and work to pipes of great natural beauty at bargain prices.  Here is one that very much resembles the pipe in this blog, suggesting Ottendahl may have had a hand in making this Knute of Denmark.I suspect, or at least like to think, that Ottendahl read Longfellow’s magnificent poem, a couplet of which I quoted above, and if he didn’t, he would have enjoyed it.  And it was raining in the Isotopes City while I restored this pipe.

RESTORATION The stem was savagely damaged, with the top lip all but gone and a small hole below it and the bottom having two gouges.  Such long-term acts of mayhem must have been inflicted by someone with clear and severe anger issues who masticated the mouthpiece the way some people chomp on gum to stop smoking coffin nails.  I gave it an OxiClean bath to start.  At the same time, I stripped whatever dirt and stain (the latter of which I could see no signs) were present with an Everclear soak.  The immediate appearance of dark reddish swirls in the alcohol surprised me. The OxiClean soak, which was complete first, shows in the pic below how filthy the stem was.  Afterward, all I can say is it was clean. Figuring I had at least an hour before the stummel would be stripped, I filed off fine shavings from an old otherwise useless stem and made a nice little pile.  The ironic part of that task was that the stem was once a fancy type similar to the one I was fixing and would have been a perfect replacement had it not been toasted!  Then I added a few drops of black Super Glue, mixed it together with the shavings and quickly and liberally applied it to the stem after dipping a cleaner in petroleum jelly and inserting in the mouthpiece past the hole.  WARNING: I forgot my usual process of lubricating a small sliver of card stock paper also and inserting it inside the stem in front of the cleaner, but it all worked out later – with some extreme difficulty. That done, I had 12-24 hours before it would be dried, way more than enough time to finish the stummel that was ready to come out of the Everclear.  Checking out the progress of the alcohol soak, I was amazed by the almost blood red color of the 190-proof grain alcohol and guessed it was from residual maroon stain.For the first time after an Everclear soak, I wiped the still drying wood with a cotton rag saturated with purified water.  The water took longer to dry, but the result was stunning.  Despite the sandblasting, I believe what I beheld was the finest piece of briar I’ve ever seen.  Its natural beauty shone through the crisp dullness. I reamed the chamber, used a small sharp pocket knife to cut away some excess buildup and sanded with 150-, 220, 320- and 600-grit papers, then retorted the pipe. The following shots show the tremendous improvement of the wood’s potential color and glow.  I used the super fine “0000” steel wool in two of the photos only on the rim and shank opening.  But look at the difference. Late that night, with the stem patch dry, I took out one of my files, a narrow triangle with medium-grit flat sides to remove the thick, uneven mess on the top of the stem that is a necessary by-product of the black Super Glue method of hole-filling.  I was also able to remove most of the deep chasms on the bottom of the stem.  I began the smoothing process with a dual 150- and 160-grit sanding pad and regular, rougher 150-grit paper.The effort to salvage the ruined old stem was worthwhile and a good start on a plan of total rehabilitation for personal use, but this pipe is for sale, and I know the more difficult work of re-building the bottom lip will take longer and not, in the end, be suitable to pass off to a buyer.

But as it happened, I had two other freehands with good fancy stems with which I could play musical chairs, a Ben Wade by Preben Holm I re-stemmed before and an estate Karl Erik I’m working on now that’s far too huge to support the smaller stem it came with.  For now, I’m enjoying the BW with the damaged Vulcanite stem as the yellow Lucite one fits the Karl Erik.  I liked the dark brown swirled Lucite stem that was on the Karl Erik better, and since the tenon of the BW by PH was too thin, the issue was settled.  I sanded down the elegant brown Lucite fancy stem’s tenon and smoothed it with steel wool before micro meshing it. A thorough buffing on the wheel with red and white rouge on the stem and stummel, and it was done. CONCLUSION
In the spirit of nature, I used no stain restoring this freehand that needed no artificial help to reveal its innate beauty.



Refurbishing a Bjarne Hand Made Nosewarmer

Blog by Steve Laug

In the past weeks I finished up some pipes for a guy here in Vancouver and when he came to pick them up he brought some more for me to work on for him. I finished up some of the ones on the worktable so I decided it was time to work on these. The third of them is a Bjarne bent apple nosewarmer with a short stem. It is another really beautiful pipe. The shape, the rich reddish brown finish along with the black acrylic stem with the bj logo all combine to make this a uniquely beautiful pipe.   The bowl had a thin and uneven cake. The upper half of the bowl was more thickly caked than the bottom half. I would need to ream it to even out the cake. There was some slight darkening on the rim top as well as dents and nicks in the top of the rim. The inside of the shank was dirty and needed to be cleaned. The black Lucite stem had tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside of the stem near the button. There was one deep tooth mark on the top edge of the button. The short saddle stem looked good otherwise. I took photos of the bowl and stem to give a clear picture of the condition of the pipe before I started to work on it.I did a quick review of the history of the brand by turning to Pipedia. Here is the link https://pipedia.org/wiki/Bjarne. I quote from part of that article to give a short synopsis of the history of the brand.

With a demanding job it was hard to find time to make pipes in that quantity, and Bjarne had to choose. His dream had always been to have a company of his own, and if he wanted fo fulfill that dream, now was the time to do it. But to leave a promising career, in which he probably would have become a Danish ambassador in some foreign country, was indeed a big step to take. “Many thought I was crazy”, Bjarne says, “and one of them was my wife. But she supported my decision anyway.”

He made that decision in 1973, and became a fulltime pipemaker. But he soon realized that it was impossible for one person to handle all of it–he could not make a lot of pipes, sell them and collect money for them all by himself. So he decided to find some pipemakers to help him. In those days Preben Holm was one of the biggest makers of fancy pipes, and he employed a great number of pipemakers. But not all of them were happy to work for Preben,m so Bjarne recruited a few of those.

During the first years all of Bjarne’s pipes were sold in the USA, but at the end of the 1970s he visited the pipe show in Frandfurt and found that there was a market for his there as well. However, he found that the Germans wanted a completely different style of pipes–pipes in traditional shapes. So if he wanted to be successful there, he had to add a completely new line to his production. “It was not easy, we learned it the hard way,” Bjarne says. But they certainly succeeded, and for a number of years Germany became the top-selling market for Bjarne’s pipes.

The photo below shows pictures of Bjarne Nielsen. The photo is from the Pipedia article and comes from Doug Valitchka as noted below the photo.I then turned to the Pipephil website – http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-b5.html  and did a screen capture of the article there on Bjarne pipes. Bjarne Nielsen distributed his own brand of pipes carved by Danish Pipemakers. It is stamped on the underside of the shank with Bjarne over Hand Made in Denmark. There are no other stampings or numbers on the shank. The pipe was obviously made prior to 2008 when Nielsen died.I started my clean up on this pipe by reaming out the bowl and smoothing out the cake on the walls. I reamed it back with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I sanded it smooth and even with a dowel wrapped in 220 grit sandpaper. Once that was finished the walls were smooth and undamaged and the surface ready for a new cake.I worked over the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I removed the most of the damage to the rim top with the micromesh sanding pads. I removed the area on the rear that had been darkened. I polished the exterior of the bowl with the pads at the same time. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. I touched up the cleaned up rim top with a Maple stain pen to match the colour of the rest of the bowl. The match was perfect and once the bowl was waxed and polished would be indistinguishable from the rest.I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the finish with my fingertips and finished working it in with a shoe brush. I worked over the rim top to blend it into the rest of the stain. The balm works to clean, preserve and enliven the briar. I really like the effect of the product on briar so I took some photos of the pipe at this point. I cleaned out the airway in the stem and shank, the mortise and shank interior with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. It did not take as much as I expected to remove all the tars and oils in the shank and mortise. The stem had some debris in the edges of the slot in the stem.I set the bowl aside and turned to address the stem. I sanded the tooth marks and chatter out of the stem surface with some folded 220 grit sandpaper. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches in the acrylic. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine polishes. I wiped it down with a cotton pad and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. I set the stem aside to dry. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I carefully avoided the stamping on the underside of the shank. I gave both the smooth bowl and the stem multiple 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 finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I have five more pipes to finish for him – one move from his personal rotation and four of them that are some finds he made while pipe hunting. This is a fun bunch of pipes to work on. I look forward to moving through the rest of them. Thanks for looking.  


Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

6 And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made [it] to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief.  So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd  7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.  8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, [It is] better for me to die than to live.

The Holy Bible (KJV), 4:6-8

The unique and, one would not be out of line calling it, bizarre implement for enjoying pipe tobacco that is the subject of this post came to me in an estate lot of three “unbranded” examples.  That’s just a euphemistic way of saying no-names.  I never before bid on a lot with nothing but unknown pipes, much less heard of such a thing, but I wanted this lot so much I offered three times more than anyone in his right mind would even consider.  The tactic worked.  One other bidder offered 50 cents more than the price at the time and therefore drove the final cost up that much, but I would have loved to see the look on his face when the minimum bid popped up on his screen!  I’m a little evil that way, I know.

The price I paid for the three has already been compensated with the sale of the top pipe below, a frayed straight brandy I cleaned and dressed up in a shiny black finish and sold for more than the lot cost.  The African meerschaum in the middle that made me desire the lot at all is destined for my own collection.

Three no-name pipe lot courtesy adamcam1985_eBay









I have nothing against no-names.  In fact, some of them have been favorites of mine, one of which, below, I’m sure will shock some readers here.  Both of the no-names in the following photos came incidental to a couple of other lots filled with treasures the sellers could not have recognized, and they smoked as well as any pipe I’ve owned. And so, this is about the bottom pipe in the lot of no-names, a definite art deco wannabe that can only be described as a Rhodesian calabash, despite the lack of calabash gourd or anything like the traditional meerschaum bowl insert.  Instead, the “insert” is made of wood I believe to be Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), similar to plywood only much denser and stronger, and something that looks and feels like some sort of metal and therefore probably is.  I’m sure it was made in China, if only because of the unmistakable color.

The refurbish was as easy as they come.

REFURBISH The newfangled calabash is comparable in size to other pipes in one way, having a length of 6”, but the chamber diameter is tiny at ⅝” x ⅝”.  When I first held the pipe and looked it over, I thought it was brand new (pun intended).  But closer examination showed carbon in the little insert bowl chamber and the larger enclosed bottom chamber, and the rim needed some work.  After more than a little consideration, I determined the insert is MDF coated almost all over with whatever maroon finish of which the Chinese are so fond.  It reminds me of a mushroom, truth be told. Unfortunately, after having no success removing the char from the bottom chamber with super fine “0000” steel wool, I escalated the process to 150-grit paper and took off enough of the Teflon-like red finish that there remained no reason not to finish the job.  The steel wool worked well on the rim, though.The plastic stem had been gnawed well below the lip until it was, well, gnarly.  I attacked it with a progression of 150-, 220-, 320- and 600-grit papers, followed by the full power of all nine micro mesh pads and, to finish it off, a buff on the wheel with red and white rouge.  I don’t really know if the last measure did any good.  You be the judge. And that, as they say, was that, except for a quick spin on the wheel to buff the rim.
All I want to know now is what’s up with the stinger?  And BTW, one reason I chose the Biblical quote at the beginning is that I suspect it might be the origin of the term “losing your gourd.”  I meant no blasphemy.

I do not believe there is a source for this perhaps – one at least would hope – unique pipe.  But everything deserves its day in the sun!

Restoring a Gutta-Percha Woman’s Leg Pipe with a Briar Bowl

Blog by Steve Laug

On Friday my wife and I took a drive out to one of our favourite spots near Vancouver to do a bit of walking and hunting. She likes looking for old cookbooks and I of course am always on the prowl for old pipes. We walked about for a while and enjoyed the beautiful day. We stopped by two antique malls and spent some time looking. She found nothing for her collection but I found three old pipes – A Parker Super Briar Bark 345 Bulldog in decent shape, a French Made Algerian Briar diamond shank Billiard and a Gutta-Percha Leg shaped pipe with a briar bowl. It was in the worst condition of the three pipes.The black cast/molded Gutta-Percha base was shaped like a female leg and even had a ballet slipper on the extended foot. The airway came out at the end of the toe. The base was nicked and dull looking with none of the rich glow that I know comes when the material is polished. But by far the worst part of the pipe was that some had dipped the briar bowl in a gold metallic paint rubbed it into the grain and then covered it with multiple layers of Varathane plastic coat. They had even dipped the threads on the nipple that screwed into the base in the plastic coat and painted the inside of the bowl as well. I say that was the worst part because otherwise the pipe was unsmoked. It would have been NOS (New Old Stock) before whoever did this abomination to the pipe. The bowl is normally a rich reddish brown colour in all the variations that I have seen on the internet so the gold and plastic finish would need to go. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show you the way it looked when I got it – I don’t know if some of you like the look – but I don’t. It is like painting an antique wooden piece with crackly gold paint to give it the look of hammered metal. It just does not work for me. I also took some photos of the base to show the condition of the mouthpiece end of the pipe. There were some nicks in the material but no tooth marks or chatter and the orific airway in the end of the toes was undamaged.I took photos of the bowl with it removed from the base to show how it had been painted with streaks to make it look like vertical grain – it was not as the wood was smooth and bits of it peaked through the gaudy gold finish. You can also see the thick plastic coat on the nipple that is threaded into the bowl almost filling in all of the threads. I topped the end of the nipple with 220 grit sandpaper on the topping board to remove the thick plastic coat that was not even smooth on that portion of the bowl. I did the same with the bowl to remove the plastic and metallic gold paint. Those areas definitely looked better to me but the bowl was a long way from looking normal.I tried wiping the bowl down with acetone to break through the plastic coat – no luck. The brown stains on the cotton pad come from the nipple end and the rim top where I had broken through the finish. There was only one way to remove this abominable coat of plastic and that was to sand it until it was gone… not my favourite thing. Think twice before any of you put that stuff on a pipe. It is truly awful and stops the wood from breathing.I sanded the bowl with 180 grit sandpaper and was able to break through the plastic coat and the gold coat. Underneath the bowl was nicked and damaged. The majority of the damaged spots were merely built up plastic coat and sanding them smoothed things out. But some of them were deep gouges in the wood. I sanded, cleaned with alcohol and filled those in with clear super glue and briar dust. When the repairs had cured I sanded them smooth with 180 and 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the bowl. I sanded the bowl with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to remove the remnants of the repair and the plastic coat. It took a bit of sanding but the finish was finally smooth to touch. I sanded the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads to smooth things out more.With the bowl smooth and clean I decided to stain it with the tan aniline stain I have. I am sure that it is mislabeled as it is far too red to be tan. I figured it would work well with this bowl.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on cotton pads to even the stain coat and make it a bit more transparent. The trouble was that all of the flaws and nicks in the wood showed up then. I gave it a second coat of stain using a Mahogany stain pen to darken the overall surface of the bowl and still leave it transparent enough to see the grain in the wood. I rubbed some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the bowl to enliven, clean and protect the newly stained bowl. I let it sit for a few moments then buffed it off with a cotton cloth. I took photos of the bowl at this point to show how things were developing. I set the bowl aside and worked on the base. I cleaned out the debris of time on the inside of the base with cotton swabs and alcohol. There were not a lot of tars as the pipe was unsmoked. But there was dust from sitting all these years since it was made.I polished the base with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the base down after each pad with Obsidian Oil and rubbed it into the material. The pictures tell the story as the base begins to develop a shine. I further polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to remove more of the scratches from the Gutta-Percha base. I rub the polish on with my fingertips and polish it with a cotton pad to raise the shine. I buffed the bowl and the base independently of each other with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to remove minute scratches and give the materials a shine. I gave both parts multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed them with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I put the parts back together and hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The photos below show the finished and restored pipe. I personally like the rich brown over the metallic gold on the bowl when I got the pipe. The dimensions of the pipe are petite – the length from thigh to tip of the toe is 5 ½ inches, the height from the knee to the thigh is 2 inches, the outer diameter of the thigh is 1 1/8 inches and the chamber diameter is 1 inch. It is a unique piece of pipe history and joins the rest of the Gutta-Percha pipes in my collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration of this leg pipe with me.

Refurbishing a KB&B Gutta Percha Marco-Polo Tavern Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

I have worked on quite a few Gutta Percha pipes over the years but for years had no idea what the material was. I had mistakenly called it Bakelite and other things until this past year when I was sent a suggestion. The pipe on the work table today came to me from my brother Jeff. Yet again he found an interesting pipe. It is made of that material and it is by far the longest pipe I have worked on. It is 13 inches long and 2 inches tall. The outer diameter of the bowl is 1 inch and the chamber diameter is 5/8 of an inch. The base and stem are Gutta Percha and the bowl is briar with a threaded nipple that screws into the base. The base is stamped on the left side of the shank near the bowl and reads MARCO-POLO followed by the KB&B cloverleaf logo. The pipe is NOS (New Old Stock) and thus is unsmoked. The bowl is pristine and the base and stem are very clean other than showing dullness from sitting around in the light since it was made. Jeff took the next photos to show what the pipe looked like when he received it. Jeff took a close up photo of the top of the bowl and the underside of the base. The bowl had a rounded edge with a small flaw toward the front. It was clean of any debris other than the dust and dullness of time. The base is a funnel or cone shaped cup that takes the threaded nipple on the briar bowl. It has two feet on the bottom that allow it to stand on a table or desk top.The mouthpiece end of the base was very clean with no tooth marks or chatter. There was some dust in the sharp edge of the button and the edge was lightly damaged over time.I went back to the blog I did on Gutta Percha and have included the link and some of the material I gathered at that point. I thought it would helpful for you if the material is a new thing to you. (https://rebornpipes.com/2017/12/08/59256/). I quote from there in what follows:

That led me to do some research on the web to see what I could find out about the material. (Honestly, I don’t know what I would do without Google. I don’t know how I survived college and graduate school without it.) The first link I found and turned to was on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gutta-percha). I quote large portions of that article below to set the base for understanding the material’s composition and origin.

Scientifically classified in 1843, it was found to be a useful natural thermoplastic. In 1851, 30,000 long cwt (1,500,000 kg) of gutta-percha was imported into Britain.

During the second half of the 19th century, gutta-percha was used for myriad domestic and industrial purposes, and it became a household word (emphasis mine). In particular, it was needed as insulation for underwater telegraph cables, which, according to author John Tully, led to unsustainable harvesting and a collapse of the supply.

According to Harvey Wickes Felter and John Uri Lloyd’s Endodontology: “Even long before Gutta-percha was introduced into the western world, it was used in a less processed form by the natives of the Malaysian archipelago for making knife handles, walking sticks and other purposes. The first European to discover this material was John Tradescant, who collected it in the Far East in 1656. He named this material “Mazer wood”. Dr. William Montgomerie, a medical officer in Indian service, introduced gutta-percha into practical use in the West. He was the first to appreciate the potential of this material in medicine, and he was awarded the gold medal by the Royal Society of Arts, London in 1843.”

…In the mid-19th century, gutta-percha was also used to make furniture, notably by the Gutta-Percha Company (established in 1847). Several of these ornate, revival-style pieces were shown at the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London. When hot it could be moulded into furniture, decorations or utensils (emphasis mine).

It was also used to make “mourning” jewelry, because it was dark in color and could be easily molded into beads or other shapes (emphasis mine). Pistol hand grips and rifle shoulder pads were also made from gutta-percha, since it was hard and durable, though it fell into disuse when plastics such as Bakelite became available (emphasis mine). Gutta-percha found use in canes and walking sticks, as well.

The material was adopted for other applications. The “guttie” golf ball (which had a solid gutta-percha core) revolutionized the game. Gutta-percha remained an industrial staple well into the 20th Century, when it was gradually replaced with superior (generally synthetic) materials, though a similar and cheaper natural material called balatá is often used in gutta-percha’s place. The two materials are almost identical, and balatá is often called gutta-balatá.

I thought it would be good to refresh my thinking on the stamping of KB&B pipes and how it can help get a relative date on a particular pipe. I did a blog on that and quote part of that now. https://rebornpipes.com/tag/dating-kbb-and-kbb-pipes/. The KBB and KB&B stamping on these old timers is stamped in a cloverleaf on the side or top of the shank of the briar pipes. In more recent years the KBB and KB&B stamping is no longer present. Kaufmann Brothers and Bondy was the oldest pipe company in the USA, established in 1851. The Club Logo predated Kaywoodie with the “KB&B” lettering stamped within the Club, and a multitude of KB&B lines were in production long before “Kaywoodie” first appeared in 1919. I have several of these old timers including a Borlum that was made before Kaywoodie became the flagship name for pipes from Kaufman Brothers & Bondy (KB&B)… That information helps date pre-1919 KB&B pipes. There is still a long history following that for which I wanted further information.

I found the Marco-Polo pipe listed on the pipephil site (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-kbb.html). The site says that the KB&B Clover Logo was discontinued in the 1930s. When Kaywoodie took over the line in 1919 the Kaywoodie name was often added to the stamping. So I can safely assume that pipe was made before the Kaywoodie name was added. That would make it pre-1919 or at least in the first few years following the acquisition by Kaywoodie.I took photos of the pipe after my brother had done his simple and thorough clean up on the pipe. It looked really good when it arrived. The Gutta Percha was dull and needed to be polished and the briar bowl was dull as well. Nothing that a little polishing would not change.I took some close up photos of the bowl to show the grain on the sides and interior of the bowl. The final photo shows the underside with the pair of feet that allows the pipe to stand on a table top. The stem end of the base was also dull but did not have tooth chatter or marks which matched the unsmoked bowl and confirmed the NOS designation that I gave the pipe above.I started the polishing of the Gutta Percha base and stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil and after the last pad set the base aside to dry.I rubbed some Before & After Restoration Balm into the stem and base and let it sit for a little while. Then I buffed it off with a soft cloth. The Gutta  Percha really started to take on a shine at this point in the process.I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm to clean, enliven and protect the briar bowl. I rubbed into the threads on the nipple with a cotton swab and let it site for a few moments. I buffed the balm off with a soft cotton cloth the photos below show the bowl at this point in the process. I buffed the bowl and stem separately using Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave both multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed each with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I put the pipe back together and hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The following photos show the completed pipe. It is really a beauty – quite delicate looking but comfortable in the hand and mouth. It was an interesting piece to work on and probably one I won’t see very often. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.

A Tale of Three Churchwardens

Blog by Dal Stanton

The first of the 3 was true born, but of hobbit stature.  He dreamed of walking in the world of men and of wizards seeing eye to eye but anxious to serve.  The second was bound to the first but he held no claim to royal lineage. He stood proud in the best sense of the word and cherished his Green Lands heritage and history.  The third of the 3, was free and bound to no man.  He was born into humbler circumstances but found favor in the Maker’s eye and the Maker dubbed him The Wise a valuable gift to any man.  All 3 strong, bound together in one tale, bring hope to the Daughters of men. 

I am sure that if J.R.R. Tolkien were to write this blog about the restoration and creation of 3 Churchwardens, he might begin the tale something like this.  Every pipe man and pipe women, if they do not have a Churchwarden in their collections, are hoping one day to find one – each looking for that special bond.  Why?  Simply stated, Churchwardens are cool.  I have a Churchwarden that I’ve named, Gandalf – there are probably many Churchwardens out there bearing that name.  Why?  Simply stated, Gandalf the Wizard – first The Grey then The White – is cool.  He smoked a Churchwarden like no one else, packed with ‘Old Toby’ and who doesn’t want to be like Gandalf?

There’s A LOT of information on the internet easily obtained by a simple search of ‘Churchwarden’ and I don’t want to repeat what’s easily found.  The short of it is this – ‘Churchwarden’ is an old shape as far as pipes go.  Of course, they were prevalent throughout Middle Earth.  As the story goes, there were men back in the days when they didn’t lock churches at night, who were employed as ‘wardens’ of the church – whose responsibility was to guard the premises.  To be faithful to their charge, they were not allowed to leave the walls of the church.  That created an unusual dilemma between guarding the holy confines and the desire to enjoy one’s evening smoke.  The moral dilemma was creatively solved by a stem.  The length of the stem enabled the church wardens to tend to their evening bowls as they stood vigilantly inside the church walls while the stems extended through the windows…so the story goes (see Pipedia’s article).

Another very interesting factoid about Churchwardens comes from Bill Burney’s Pipedia description of the Churchwarden that it is unique among all pipes:

I want to include one other interesting link for those of you who are Middle Earth and Churchwarden enthusiast.  The question has always been asked by discerning folk, while Gandalf was smoking his Warden, or Bilbo, Merry and Pippen were puffing on theirs, what exactly was packed in their bowls??  Of course, we all know that the bowls had ‘Old Toby’ packed in them – or simply, ‘Pipeweed’.  This link goes to a fun site that explores the minutia of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth including the story of pipe smoking and the mystery of what exactly inhabited the bowls of Middle Earth!  Enjoy!

The first of the 3 was true born, but of hobbit stature.  He dreamed of walking in the world of men and of wizards seeing eye to eye but anxious to serve.

My ‘Tolkienesque’ opening, like Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’, holds some truth in the telling.  The ‘Tale of the Three Churchwardens’ started when I received an email from Toby – yes, I’m not making this up!  Gandalf smoked ‘Old Toby’ and a younger Toby from Germany wrote me about commissioning the “Imperial Churchwarden” (the ‘true born’ Churchwarden with royalty) as a birthday gift for a friend which he discovered in my website’s section, For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only.  We came to an accord and I put the Imperial Churchwarden from France in the queue to be restored in time for his friend’s birthday celebration. Later, when I found the Imperial in the “Help Me!” Basket, I was a little concerned.  The stem was shorter than I had originally thought – it was more of ‘Hobbit stature’ – a miniature Warden.  The stem was 5 ¾ inches beyond the shank or the total length of the pipe was about 8 ¾ inches or 22 cm – not really the coveted ‘Gandalf’ size.  I wrote to Toby with a proposal of adding some stature to the Imperial with a longer Churchwarden stem I had on hand – it would be more of a ‘Gandalf statured’ Churchwarden as a result.  I sent this picture with the proposed stem giving a total length of 11 inches or 28 ½ cm.  My Gandalf was on top for comparison.  Toby liked the idea and said that his friend was a huge ‘Lord of the Rings’ fan and that an extra 5 cms was a good investment for his friend to have a ‘Gandalf’ pipe.  

The second was bound to the first but he held no claim to royal lineage.  He stood proud in the best sense of the word and cherished his Green Lands heritage and history.

Then Toby asked if I might have another long warden stem in my stores – he thought it might be good for him to add a Churchwarden to his collection – perhaps that both he and his friend could blow smoke rings into the air in proper wizard fashion on his friend’s day of celebration!  I ordered 3 more 8.5” Churchwarden stems from Tim West at http://www.jhlowe.com and they arrived in Bulgaria from the US with a returning colleague.  At this point I moved from restoring a Churchwarden (true born) to creating a Churchwarden with re-purposed bowls.  I went through my stores to find potential bowls to be wedded to a Warden stem and transformed to a Churchwarden (thank you Bill Burney!).  I sent two options next to the Imperial – a Dublin and a Rhodesian.  Toby chose the Dublin with the canted bowl which to him was more ‘Gandalf-like’.  And so, the Dublin will mast the Churchwarden stem – representing a strong and resilient people proud of their ‘Green’ heritage and history.

The third of the 3, was free and bound to no man.  He was born into humbler circumstances but found favor in the Maker’s eye and the Maker dubbed him ‘The Wise’ a valuable gift to any man.                     

All 3 strong, bound together in one tale, bring hope to the Daughters of men.

With two Churchwardens bound to Toby – one for his friend and one for himself, I was thinking, while I’m working on restoring and creating these Churchwardens, why not fashion another to put in The Pipe Steward Store for another steward to add to their collection.  I found a small bowl that I really liked – a Yello Bole ‘Air-control’ Imported Briar.  I looked at the Air-Control stem mechanism and my thought was that no one will ever want this Yelo Bole as he is now attached to his ‘high-tech’ stem, but I really liked the Apple shaped bowl.  I think he’ll look great mounted on a long-bent stem – a third Churchwarden, a wise choice for anyone wanting to add a Churchwarden to his collection!  All three Churchwardens will benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls, the ‘Daughters of men’ who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.I want to thank Charles Lemon of https://dadspipes.com  up front for his input that led me to add two new tools to my tool box and expanding my ‘restorative reach’ with pipes.  The first is a PIMO Tenon Turning Tool that I ordered at Vermont Freehand after seeing the tool on Charles’ Worktable and Man Cave blog.  Charles’ later restoration, Re-Stemming a Butz-Choquin Marigny Deluxe Hand-Made Calabash was very helpful providing a step by step description of its use in replacing a tenon and the use of the tool.  The other wonderful tool that I coveted reading the same ‘Re-Stemming’ blog was the electronic caliper which Charles uses hand in hand with his many stem repairs.  I hadn’t seen an electronic caliper in Bulgaria, but then, I had never looked for one either!  Joy of joys, I found a German made electronic caliper in the local ‘Bricolage’ – I was a happy camper!  My new toys – that is, tools 😊 pictured next. As I approach the restoration and creation of the 3 Churchwardens, I will try to work in the reverse – starting with the ‘Free Born’ Yello Bole, then the ‘Green Land’ Dublin and finally, the ‘True Born’ French made Imperial.  Why this order?  As I get used to my new tools, I would rather start with the ‘non-commissioned’ pipe first to hone in on the techniques, working toward the most important Churchwarden, the Imperial, destined to be a gift.  To experiment and practice, I have already turned one stem with the PIMO tenon turning tool – a French Jeantet Jumbo which came to me without a matching stem and has been waiting patiently.  Without description, this is what I did last night while watching the World Cup match between Sweden and Mexico (my wife rooted for Mexico where she grew up!).  Sweden prevailed.  The Jeantet Jumbo will be completed sometime in the future – he’s a ‘big boy’ pipe! Turning now to cleaning the stummels of the Churchwardens, I start first by reaming each with the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  Each stummel uses only the smallest of the 4 blade heads available.  I then fine tuning each with the Savinelli Fitsall tool, followed by sanding the chambers with 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  Finally, each is cleaned with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  After clearing the light to moderate cake in each bowl getting down to the briar for a fresh start, the chambers look good in each – no problems I can see. Turning now to the external surface I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil soap and cotton pads to scrub each.  The Dublin (center above) has the most lava over the rim, while the other two, not as much.  In addition to cotton pads, I utilize a brass wire brush for the rims and use a knife blade carefully to scrape the Dublin rim.  The Dublin and the Imperial will both need some sanding on the rim to clean them up.  All 3 stummels’ finishes reveal that they are thin and worn.  Murphy’s took much of the finish off but not all with the Yello Bole and Imperial bowls.  The Dublin’s finish is gone.  During the cleaning, I discover that I missed the remains of a broken off tenon in the mortise of the Dublin.  I keep screws of different sizes on hand for just these occasions.  Using a small diameter screw, I screw into the airway hole of the tenon just enough to grab some vulcanite and gently pull out.  I don’t want to insert it too far into the broken tenon to not expand it and crack the shank.  As hoped, a little pressure and thankfully, the tenon comes loose. With the mortise cleared in the Dublin, I proceed to clean the internals of all 3.  I use pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95% to do the dirty work.  Here is a truism: Just because you’re cleaning a smaller stummel doesn’t mean it’s a smaller mess!  Each stummel required boocoos of cotton buds, pipe cleaners – I also scrape the sides with a sharp dental probe as well as hand-turning drill bits down the mortises to excavate the tars and oils.  The pictures show the finish line of sorts – later, before I turn out the lights, I’ll give each a kosher salt/alcohol soak through the night to provide more stealth cleaning.To remove the old finish from the stummels I wipe them down with isopropyl 95% and cotton pads.  The alcohol fully removes the old tired finish off the Imperial and the Dublin, but the Yello Bole’s old finish is persistent.  The first picture below reveals the sheen left on the Yello Bole but the others are dull.  To deal with the ‘Candie Apple’ finish that remains on the Yello Bole stummel I use acetone on a cotton pad.  This does the trick and now we’re down to the briar on all the stummels.With the stummels clean inside and out, the next step is fashioning the Churchwarden stems from the precast stems I acquired for the job.  I start with the Yello Bole by making an outside measurement of the original stem’s tenon which, of course, fits perfectly.  The measurement with the electronic caliper is 6.83mm.  From Charles Lemon’s blog that I noted above, Re-Stemming a Butz-Choquin Marigny Deluxe Hand-Made Calabash, Charles recommended a conservative approach to using the PIMO tenon turning tool which I employed on my first run with the Jeantet Jumbo, to first do a test cut of the tenon at approximately 40mm more than the target measurement.  This allows a more conservative sanding of the tenon to gradually bring it down to a good fit – not too snug and not too loose.  The Pimo tool comes with a drill bit to pre-drill the tenon airway on the precast stem to serve as a guide for the guide pin on the tool.  Adding my margin of error of 40mm to 6.83mm target size leaves me a practice cut of about 7.23mm to aim at for the conservative approach.  The pictures move through the steps. The tenon turning tool is in the drill shock and when powered rotates at high speed. With the cast stem’s airway guided by the guide pin, I push the stem steadily against the revolving blade of the tool and it peels away the vulcanite.  The blade peels the vulcanite in spaghetti-type curls.  My first practice cut is measured, and it is 8.45.  Another 1.20 mm can come off.  With the enclosed allen wrench, I adjust the Pimo tool to remove more vulcanite and the next measurement is 7.34mm.  That is a .51mm difference and places me in the conservative sanding zone.  Now, I complete the cut of the entire tenon – all the way to the face of the stem.  I haven’t figured out how to minimize the vulcanite shavings that spew out everywhere!  I note that the original stem’s tenon is shorter.  I use a sanding drum on the Dremel and take off the excess. The cut looks good and now it’s time to take file and sanding papers to gradually bring the tenon to size. Now, as I watch several episodes of Grimm which I discovered on Netflix here in Bulgaria, I gradually sand the tenon to a snug but not too tight fit.  I use coarse 120 grade paper to start – always sanding around the tenon to maintain proper round.  Then, using a flat needle file and 240 grit paper, I fine tune the tenon sanding – again, maintaining proper round by sanding around the tenon evenly.  I must admit, when the tenon gets down to the target size – when it starts to marginally slide into the mortise, my stress level increases!  I know how easily one can crack a shank by rushing the tenon’s entry into the mortise.  It takes ‘100s’ of sanding cycles followed by testing the fit (carefully!) before the tenon safely and fully engages and finds a new home!  Success!The tenon is snug and secure, and now I take some pictures to show the ridges that need to be removed and tapered through the shank and stem.  Also, the precast stem has casting ridges down the length on both sides and the button is in very rough form.  The entire Churchwarden stem needs to be sanded, smoothed and shaped along with the shank/stem transition.One picture to show the growth in stature this Yello Bole stummel now enjoys before retiring the old stem to the stem bucket.Several episodes of Grimm later, I’m satisfied with the rough sanding and shaping of the stem.  I show the full length and then some closeups of the shank/stem transition and the button shaping.  I like what I see. The next step is to introduce a gentle bend to the stem.  This will aid the future steward of this ‘Free Born’ to know which way the stem is properly positioned – there is an up and down after the custom sanding and fit – there is no standard stem fit – echoing the words of Charles Lemon’s blog!  To give me an idea of where and how much the bend should be, I used my Gandalf as a template on a piece of paper.  I also draw an outline of the original, smaller Imperial stem for comparison.  I mark the stem at the point that Gandalf’s stem’s bend began.  Bends are very subjective, but this gives me an idea what to shoot for.  After I insert pipe cleaners in both ends of the stem to guard the airway integrity during the bending, I heat the target area of the stem with a hot air gun and bend it when it becomes supple.  I take the bend to the faucet with cool tap water to set the curve.  At the start, I found that I was bending too much.  Thankfully, vulcanite is very forgiving – to correct the bend all I do is re-heat the stem and it straightens on its own.  After a few tries, I find a bend I’m happy with – a compromise between Gandalf’s slightly longer stem and the shorter, original Imperial. I put the Yello Bole ‘Free Born’ aside and now turn to the Dublin.   The following pictures are lacking my standard background working mat – it needed to be cleaned!  I start by doing an inside measurement of the mortise – 7.19mm.  That is the target width of the tenon that is shaped.  I use the drill bit provided and drill the airway to receive the PIMO guide pin.  I then bring the blade down to just touching the tenon and cut a test like before and measure – 8.15mm.  That leaves .96mm to the target size.  I make a quarter turn of the wrench, closing the blade that much and take another cut – 7.46.  The quarter turn took .69mm off the tenon.  I now have .27 mm of ‘fat’ left on the tenon.  Again, the pictures show the steps. Now, well within the conservative sanding zone, I use a flat needle file and 240 grit paper and sand the tenon down to fit with appropriate snugness.  I then sand down the stem and button as before with the Yello Bole.  I’m aiming for a fluid transition from shank to stem.  The Dublin shapes up nicely!I use the same template to give the Dublin’s new fitted stem a gentle bend over the hot air gun. Now to the Imperial.  The same methodology is employed as with the former 2.  I fast track describing the process with each picture.I drill the airway to guide the Pimo guide pin.The mortise is measured for the target tenon size – 7.56mm.With the PIMO tool I cut a ‘fat’ initial tenon that measures about 40mm larger than the target – conservative sanding zone. I measure the length of the original Imperial stem tenon and shorten the precast Churchwarden tenon to match using the flat needle file as a saw.After sanding the tenon down to a snug fit, I’m left with filing and sanding the ridge and tapering the warden stem.  I cover the Imperial’s nomenclature with masking tape to protect it from the shank sanding.After some filing with a flat needle file and sanding with 240 grit paper, the transition from the shank to the Warden stem is shaped and the button is shaped from the rough precast stem. As with the other two, I heated the Warden stem with a hot gun and when it became supple I give it a slight, gentle flowing bend and seal the bend under cool tap water.The 3 are looking good and the transformation is taking shape!I then take each of the Warden stems through a wet sanding with 600 grit paper and then used 0000 grade steel wool to continue the sanding but also buffing up the fresh vulcanite.  To hydrate each of the 3 Wardens I wipe the stems and stummels with light paraffin oil (mineral oil in Bulgaria), which serves to give me a sneak peak at the finished Churchwarden pipes.  I like what I see!With my day coming to a close, I utilize the night by allowing the stummels to clean further by using a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I fashion cotton ‘wicks’ from cotton balls and insert them down the mortises into the airways.  They act to draw the additional tars and oils out of the briar.  I then fill each bowl with kosher salt which leaves no aftertaste as iodized salt does.  I then fill the bowls with isopropyl 95% until the alcohol surfaces over the salt.  I top each stummel off in a few minutes and I turn out the lights.The next morning, I wasn’t disappointed.  The salt in each bowl had darkened and each of the wicks had discolored indicating further extraction of the tars and oils.  The salt went into the waste basket and I cleared the excess salt by wiping the bowls with paper towel and blowing with some force through the mortises.  I also follow with pipe cleaners and cotton buds to make sure all was clean.  Only the Dublin resisted further but soon pipe cleaners and cotton buds were coming out clean.  Stummels are cleaned and ready for their future stewards!  The picture shows the final carnage.Now, turning from the labor-intensive stem work, I look at the stummels.  Starting with the ‘Free Born’ Yello Bole that drew my attention.  The small Apple shape fits well the classic Churchwarden motif.  The grain is active with lateral grain expressing in bird’s eye perspective on the sides.  There are some fills in the stummel – one larger one on the right side of the stummel then a few pocket fills.  The fills all seem solid, but I will keep my eye on them as I sand. The rim is darkened from tobacco lighting and the inner edge of the rim is scorched.  I decide to give the rim a very light topping using 600 grade paper – more of a clean up to reestablish crisp lines and to remove the charring.  I use a kitchen chopping board and put the 600 paper on it for the topping.  It doesn’t take much. To address the normal nicks and dents on the stummel I use micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and wet sand the stummel.  After the wet sanding I again look at the old fills that caught my attention before to see if they softened.  They remain solid, but I can see very small pockets that might benefit from repair.  I do not dig out the fills but simply painted the fills with a very thin layer of thin CA glue with a tooth pick – like the repair to miniscule air pockets that emerge with a CA glue/charcoal patch on vulcanite stems.  The painting is thin, so it cures very quickly, and I focus sand the spots again starting with the 1500 micromesh pad to the present was sufficient.  There is no impact on the surrounding briar.  I complete the micromesh cycles by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I keep the Warden stem mounted on the stummel to guard against shouldering the shank face – keeping a nice seamless transition from shank to Warden stem.Here I picture the right side of the stummel to show the results of the ‘paint patching’ the larger fill and a few on the shank.  It blended well. Now, the Dublin is next in line.  This Dublin has ‘Selected Briar’ stamped on the left side of the shank.  It has nice looking briar, but the finish has lost its luster – it’s dull, tired and bored.  The rim is dark and has several dings on the edge.  There is one noticeable fill on the right front of the Dublin stummel.  The canted bowl of a Dublin has always attracted me and when Toby chose the Dublin to mast the Warden stem, I agreed it was a good choice – it will be an impressive looking Churchwarden.  I take a few pictures to get a closer look. I start by taking the Dublin to the topping board using 240 grit paper.  Removing the tired finish and re-establishing the lines of the rim will go a long way in sharpening this stummel.  After turning the inverted stummel on the 240 paper a few revolutions, I switch too 600 grade paper and smooth out the scratches of the 240.  Then, using 120 grit paper I cut an internal bevel on the rim followed by 240 and 600 grade papers.  I also cut a very small bevel on the external edge of the rim with the 240 and 600 papers.  I create the bevels to soften the look of the stummel and to me, it’s a classy touch.Next, I take the stummel through the full micromesh pad cycle by wet sanding with 1500 to 2400, followed by dry sanding using pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  The Dublin’s attitude is shaping up nicely! Turning now to the ‘True Born’ Churchwarden, the nomenclature stamped on the left side of the shank is a cursive, ‘Imperial’ over ‘CHURCHWARDEN’ in full block letters.  ‘Algerian Briar’ is stamped on the right.  The COM is France, stamped in very small block letters on the lower shank along the shank face.  These pictures show what I see. It did not take long to match the unique ‘Imperial’ nomenclature found in Pipedia’s very short article about the Imperial Tobacco Co. referencing Lopes:

From Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks, by Jose Manuel Lopés’

The Imerial Tobacco Co. (Imperial Tobacco Ltd.) was founded in 1901 through the merger of several British tobacco companies. In 1902 it went into partnership with the American Tobacco Company to found the British American Tobacco Company.

Brands involved: Comoy’sBewlayNordingOgden’sSalmon & Gluckstein, and Steel’s

This example was provided by the courtesy Doug Valitchka to let me know that I had locked into the right company.Pipedia’s article on Imperial Brands goes into more of the history of the multitude of acquisitions that happened in the early 1900s to maintain competitive edge.  Today, Imperial Brands is an international consortium primarily involved in cigarette sales and is based in the UK.  I found only one reference in the article to a French-based connection referencing the closure of a factory in Nantes, France, in 2016.  The company website, http://www.imperialbrandsplc.com contains an extensive history of the company, but I found no references to pipe productions in France!  In Pipedia and in Pipephil – Imperial, references to Imperial, the country of manufacturing is consistently the UK and no mention of France.  So, the French connection to this True Born will remain shrouded in mystery!

The Imperial stummel has a dulled finish as the Dublin but promises a very nice briar grain beneath.  The bowl and rim have normal wear nicks and dents.  I also detect residue shininess of old finish that didn’t come off when I cleaned with Murphy’s Oil Soap. I quickly dispatch this using a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.Inspecting the surface I find on the left side of the shank, near the ‘Imperial’ stamping, a chip that needs patching. I mix a small batch of CA glue and briar dust to patch the chip – this will blend well after sanded down.  I put a small mound of briar dust on an index card and place next to it a drop of regular CA glue.  I mix a small bit of the briar dust into the glue and when I find the resulting putty about the consistency of molasses, I apply it to the chip and put the stummel aside to cure. While the patch is curing, the large job of continuing the sanding of the Churchwarden stems jumps to the fore.  I decide to do all 3 Wardens together by first wet sanding using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400.  I follow by dry sanding using pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  After each set of three pads, I apply Obsidian Oil to each stem to vitalize the vulcanite.  There’s a LOT of vulcanite real estate to sand with a Churchwarden stem!  It’s also not easy taking pictures of the long Warden stems. Turning again to the bowls, and the Imperial’s cured patch of CA glue and briar dust, I carefully file the mound/excess down toward the briar surface.  I’m careful to stay on the excess patch material so not to damage the nearby briar and nomenclature.  I then switch to 240 paper, rolled tightly and then 600.  The patch looks great. As I take a closer look at the Imperial stummel, the rim is blackened on the internal edge.  I start by giving the bowl a very light topping with 600 grade sanding paper to clean it and to reestablish lines.  I then bevel the internal rim edge enough to clean it up as well as giving the external rim edge a bevel to soften the rim and to ‘class it up’ a bit. I like how it’s shaping up. With the rim restoration complete at this level, I use micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and wet sand the entire stummel.  I follow with dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and finish with 6000 to 12000. I have noticed on the shank a lightened area that was a result of the stem/shank fitting process where more sanding was necessary.  To darken and blend this area, I use an oak Furniture stain stick to do the job and it looks good.  I take a picture.Now, to deepen and enrich the briar of the French made Imperial Churchwarden, I apply Before and After Restoration Balm to the briar surface.  I put some on my fingers and work it into the surface.  The Balm does an amazing job bringing out the richness and the luster of the briar grain that is already beautiful.  After about 20 minutes, I wipe the Balm off the stummel with a clean cotton cloth.  It buffs up nicely.  I take a picture of the stummel with the Balm on it.Next in line is the Dublin bowl.  As with the French Imperial, I take the Dublin through the full 9 micromesh pads, 1500 to 12000.  I show the progress after each set of three pads – the first three wet sanding, the last 6, dry. As with the Imperial, I apply Before and After Restoration Balm to the Dublin bowl.  I put some Balm on my fingers and work it into the briar.  The Balm starts with the texture of light oil then as I rub it into the briar, is thickens into the texture of a thicker wax.  After I work it in I set the stummel aside to absorb the Balm.  After a time, I wipe off the Balm using a cotton cloth – it buffs up as I wipe the stummel.The final stummel is the Free Born Yello Bole.  Since the stummel has already gone through the full micromesh pad sanding process, it is ready to receive the Before and After Restoration Balm to deepen and enrich the nicely emerging briar grain.  As with the others, I apply the Balm with my fingers and after setting is aside for about 20 minutes, I wipe/buff off the Balm.  I take a picture of the Balm on the stummel and afterwards. At this point, using the Dremel mounted with dedicated cotton cloth buffing wheels set at the slowest speed, each of the three bowls I apply Blue Diamond compound and White Diamond compound is applied to the stems.  After the application of the compounds, I buff each Churchwarden with a felt cloth to remove the compound dust before applying wax.  I then mount another cotton cloth wheel on to the Dremel, increase the speed to about 40% full power and apply carnauba wax to stems and stummels.  After applying a few coats of wax, I give each Churchwarden a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.

The Tale of the Three Churchwardens is now beginning.  I am pleased with the results.  Each bowl responded well displaying a myriad of grains and patterns.  Each now displays that classic, long, graceful, wise aura of the Churchwarden genre.  It is true, only one of the Churchwardens started has a Churchwarden – the True Born.  He is now no longer of Hobbit stature and will walk with men and wizards.  The other two re-purposed bowls look great – I’m pleased.  Tobias of Germany commissioned the French made Imperial Churchwarden and the Dublin.  He will have the first opportunity to secure these Churchwardens for his friend’s birthday present and for his own collection in The Pipe Steward Store.  As ‘fate’ would have it, the third Churchwarden bound to no man, was claimed also by a person also living in Germany!  A colleague was visiting Bulgaria and saw the 3 Churchwardens on my worktable.  Thankfully, I was able to finish ‘The Wise’ to return with his new steward to Germany.  I declare that Germany receives the Middle Earth Award!  Each of these Churchwardens benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – a noble cause of helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thank you for joining me in the telling of the Tale of Three Churchwardens!

The first True Born Imperial Churchwarden of France The second was bound to the first, the proud Dublin Green Land Churchwarden The Third ‘Free Born’ Churchwarden


Blog by Robert M. Boughton
Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

I didn’t do it.  Oh, wait, THAT.  Yes, I did do THAT.
— An appropriate example of cheekiness

Last November, in a rare, impulsive act of sheer gullibility, or maybe wishful thinking gone wild is a better way to put it, I made one of the oldest mistakes other people – but not I – can do: I snatched up a collection of odds and ends on eBay labeled “Lot 3 Vintage Tobacco Pipes-Tobacco Tins-& Bags-1 Box,” somehow rationalizing that they were all connected, or at least, maybe, the pipes and some of the bags and box (the three pipes matching the combined number of two sleeves and one box, although it still didn’t occur to me that one sleeve matched the box).  To compound the shame of this serious folly, I jumped on the great deal, at only $21.51 plus S&H, based on the following single blurry photo provided by the seller.

Credit omitted for obvious reasons

I mean, consider the clues my crazed mind somehow overlooked!  You can do it without my help, which I can’t bring myself to give anyway.  I won’t even claim I don’t know what I was thinking because it’s clear I wasn’t at all, in any sense of the word.  Okay, so the package came in the mail.  Well, indeed, there were three vintage pipes, a Grabow, a Yello-Bole and the poker I couldn’t then, in my bleary-eyed horror, identify; two sleeves, a Karl Erik and a Butz-Choquin; the one Karl Erik box, and the two olde-timey Revelation Smoking Mixture tins.  And so, I struggled to reason, I got exactly what I asked for!  God knows, and so do I, that I deserved it.  Still, in my defense, however lame it may be, the seller was more than a little disingenuous with his hazy portrayal of the goods and failure to point out that the Yello-Bole has a fatal crack extending a third of the way down the front of its 1.5” bowl.

[The Revelation tins, for those who haven’t heard the story, once contained a blend of red Virginia, cube cut Burley, Latakia and Perique made at the time by Philip Morris & Co. Ltd. Inc. and said to be Albert Einstein’s go-to.  The stuff looked like mulched, ancient twigs, tree and bush leaves, bark and other components one might find as groundcover in a forest as far from civilization as is still possible.  But Revelation switched from tins to soft packaging in 1957, so I attempted to console myself with the thought that the latest addition to my small tobacciana collection is at least 61 years old.  Then I realized that’s only five years older than I am.  Does that mean I’m vintage?  Needless to say, my attempt was a failure.]

Disheartened by my abject flop, I considered the options.  I could return the whole lot, pan the seller in my feedback or bite the bullet and get on with my life.  Not caring for any of these, I tossed all of it in disgust under my living room table with my stash of junk mail and old newspapers.  In the intervening months, the pile grew and hid all of the discarded items I had banished from my mind anyway, until one day about a week ago when gravity made the pile shift, and I spied the red Butz-Choquin sleeve.  So deep down had I stuffed the memory of the debacle that I didn’t recognize it, no joke.  Approaching the sleeve on hands and knees, like an archeologist digging for treasure, I liberated the sleeve from the heap and began removing layer after layer of the paper trash.

In this fashion revealing the pipes, sleeves, box and tins, and bagging the paper mountain to throw in the trash, I could not help laughing.  The poker caught my attention, and I remembered I had not established its maker but only assumed it was of the others’ ilk.  I wiped away some crud on the smooth bottom of the rustic pipe and used my magnifying glasses trying to decipher the nomenclature but was unable to do so.  Turning to the stem for a mark that might provide a clue, I saw what appeared to be three faded dots in a line from top to bottom, the middle one of them smaller than the others.  From Pipephil, I discovered the pipe was a Brigham of the 600 series, and to my surprise, from Canada.

My face flushed and misted over with sweat from a rush of blood as my mind’s eye teleported me backward in time a few years.  I’m sure Steve has forgotten all about this, having better things to store in his mind vault, but I’m cursed – or blessed – with total recall of every tasteless, fatuous or otherwise inappropriate thing I’ve ever said, for the most part well after the fact and only when something triggers a free association with the earlier mistake.

In this case, learning that Brigham is an old and respected Canadian pipe maker reminded me of an occasion several years back when I broke my usual habit of engaging my brain before my tongue, as my dear dad taught me.  Something prompted me to blurt to Steve, “Are there any Canadian pipe makers?”  I say blurt because such an ill-conceived question could not have been made in an email or else I would have researched it myself, but rather must have flown out of my mouth in a flash of cheeky, stupid impertinence during a telephone conversation.  I also remember Steve’s pause before he replied with tact, “Yes, there are a few.”

Having now made a quick, easy online inquiry into the subject, I found one good source listing 30 far North American pipe makers, including larger brands and artisans.  Brigham seems to be the biggest and best known.  Notable among the artisans is Michael Parks of Bowmanville, Ontario, whose work is astounding.  No doubt there are many more talented folks carving pipes in the vast Canadian provinces and territories, and to every one of them, I apologize for my ignorant question that now seems so long ago!

Roy Brigham must have been born with pipes in his genes.  After serving as an apprentice to an Austrian pipe repair master, Brigham opened his own shop in Toronto in 1906.  After 12 years, the venture included five other craftsmen and was already known across Canada for its excellent work.  In 1918, Brigham and his team started making the company’s first pipes, and again the reputation for high quality and value began to spread throughout the country’s 3.9 million square miles.

Brigham’s son Herb joined the business in 1935, and the two were known as Brigham & Son.  Together, they identified tongue bite, which at the time was thought to be caused by hot smoke from pipes, as the chief complaint of customers.  Determined to get to the bottom of the problem, father and son experimented and learned that the symptom was caused not by heat but mild burning from tars and acids in the smoke.  Trying various filters, they concluded bamboo and rock maple were the best materials.  Bamboo being much more difficult to obtain, they settled on rock maple, and in 1937 invented what they called the Distillator and applied for the Canadian patent, granted the following year.  That patent, №. 372,982, was for a metal insert in the mouthpiece which enclosed the non-porous rock maple insert that could be removed and cleaned several times before the effectiveness began to deteriorate.  The fourth page is a clarification made sometime after the Patent Act of 1955 cited in its text.CAN. PAT. 372982 is stamped on the smooth bottom of the poker’s shank, below the Brigham mark, but as future changes were gradual and relatively minor and finished in the late 1940s after Herb rejoined the business following service in World War II, they appear not to have been filed but were relied upon based on the protection granted to the one and only Brigham patent for the Distillator.  Therefore, a precise dating of the poker is impossible, although it looks to be made in the 1950s.  Brigham has a remarkable array of pipes varying from traditional shapes to freehands to some that are just plain unique.

Canadian courtesy Smoking Pipes

Mike Brigham, Herb’s son, joined the family business in 1978 and began expanding the product list to include tobacco and accessories.  This is likely when the company became known as Brigham Pipes Ltd. Until 1995, when the present name of Brigham Enterprises Inc., its incarnation today.

Here is the Brigham rusticated poker as I received it. The first orders of business were to soak the stummel in Everclear and ream the chamber.  After the soak, a light touch with super fine “0000” steel wool cleared the rim. I followed that with a double 150- and 180-grit sanding pad all around, the highlights of which are shown below.  The second photo was taken after sanding the chamber with 150-, 220-, 320-, 400- and 600-grit papers. Working on the rim with papers from 220-600 grit followed by micro mesh 1500-12000, it shined up pretty well.  While I was at it, I micro meshed the rest of the stummel, focusing on the rim, and the first and third photos following show the improvement. The next pics show how filthy an old, oxidized stem can be, and the aftermath of soaking in OxiClean.  I don’t know what the loose, plastic film-like stuff is in the last shot below and was worried it would become a problem. Sanding the lips and areas below them with 600-grit paper took off the roughness, and a full wet micro mesh progression followed by dry made the stems shine.  Also, the mystery film came off clean.  The last photo shows how my initial belief that the stem mark was faded dots that would require filling in was wrong.  They’re metal implants. Retorting the pipe was fast and easy since it was well prepped.Then it occurred to me I hadn’t removed the Distillator rock maple insert, which I did then.  Brigham’s use chart indicates by the darker brown color of the insert that the pipe was smoked about 20 times since the last filter was added.  I’ve ordered an 8-pack replacement box.My favorite part of most restores had arrived, in this case to buff the rustic area of the stummel with Halcyon II wax and the rim with White Diamond and carnauba.  I used red and white rouge on the stem for a change since I had used it for several special pipes I’ll be blogging ASAP. CONCLUSION
I learned quite a bit about our neighbor to the north and now have a firm grasp on the fact that Canadians indeed not only make pipes, but beautiful ones.  Nuff said about that.  But boy, am I happy I jumped on that otherwise misleading eBay lot!