Tag Archives: removing a varnish finish with acetone

Giving New Life to a Duncan Mini Bent Foreign Made Pocket Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

Not too long ago I received an email from through the rebornpipes site. I am actually getting quite a few emails each week which I find a pleasure to read and answer. They range from questions on restoration to those regarding estate pipes. This one was interesting to me in that it was about a two particular brands of pipes that I have worked on and enjoyed in the past. I have included the initial email and subsequent ones below to give you the context of the ongoing interaction on this pipe. I thoroughly enjoyed the interchange with Mrs. C. Howard and look forward to being able to send her photos of the restored pipe.

Hello. Clearing out our shed today my husband came across a couple of old pipes, one of which is a Keyser Hygienic, which I have now read about, on your website, how you clean and refurbish them. For my husband and his crewmate in the London Ambulance Service in the 70’s, smoking a pipe was just another one of their fads (with motorbikes at that time, they rather fancied themselves, too, as facsimiles of Starsky & Hutch!) so although tooth-marked, not badly for the amount of time they were in use, I would think. My husband’s reaction to ‘turfing out’ unwanted things is to take it all to the dump, whereas mine is to locate useful ‘homes’ for items that are still serviceable and would serve a useful purpose. I see that you are on the look-out for Keyser pipes and wondered if you would like this one. It would only go to charity anyway and I would rather donate it to you – it would be no difficulty for me to post, if you wanted it. I also have a Duncan Mini Dent pipe; if you would like this also I could send it at the same time. I have washed both of them but, obviously, your attention to that aspect would be done best by you. I look forward to hearing from you. – Yours sincerely – Mrs. C. Howard

I immediately wrote her back and told her I would be delighted to receive the pipes and would gladly pay her for the postage from England to Canada. She replied:

Hello Mr Laug,

I was very pleased to hear your response and will post both pipes to you as soon as I’ve wrapped them.  There will be no need for a refund of postage; I’ll be happy just to know the pipes are being re-located from my shed, ignored and unloved, to a good home where they will get both!

My husband and I loved Vancouver when we visited, particularly enjoying the trip over to Vancouver Island to see Mrs. Butchart’s Gardens and where my aunt and uncle had moved to years ago.  We especially, too, liked the laid-back nature of the Canadian people.

However, I shall get these pipes posted asap and hope you enjoy the final result of your labours in refurbishing them. With best wishes – Mrs. C. Howard

Once again I replied thanking her for her kindness in gifting and sending the pipes to me. I looked forward to receiving them from her and working on them to restore them to their former glory.

Hello Mr Laug,

Just to let you know that you should be receiving the pipes in the not-too distant, since I posted them off yesterday, the 23rd. Optimistically, it won’t be too long before they arrive at your door.  I hope I don’t sound like an Amazon rep, although I rather fall down on being able to provide you with parcel tracking details, et al! – Kind regards. Mrs. C. Howard

To me this kind of information is priceless and gives me the background on the pipes when I work on them. I like to picture in my mind the pipe man who smoked them. In this case the information made me wonder how many more pipes are sitting in garden sheds around the world, having been discarded when the pipesmoker decided to lay them down. Thank you Mrs. C. Howard for the foresight you had in rescuing these pipes.

When the box arrived in Vancouver I wrote Mrs. C. Howard and let her know they arrived safely. I opened her parcel and found the contents were well wrapped and had come undamaged. The second pipe that came in the box is one that I have on the table now. It is stamped on the underside of the shank. It reads Duncan over Mini Bent over Foreign Made. It is a small pocket sized pipe that was heavily coated with varnish – even on the saddle portion of the stem. It looked as if it had been dipped. It has an interesting shape that feels great in the hand. The photos below show what it looked like when it arrived. The pipe had the same garden shed aroma as the Keyser that came with it. It was kind of musty smelling. It had definitely been smoked but not much. There were some dings on the rim top but other than the varnish coat wrinkling it looked good. The bowl did not have a cake and was raw briar half way down the bowl. The stem had a lot of tooth chatter and some light tooth marks on both sides near the button. The button itself also had a few tooth marks. You can see the varnish run on the saddle portion of the stem in the first photo of the stem below. I took some close up photos of the rim and stem to show the condition.The next photo shows the stamping. It appears blurry but sadly the stamping itself is blurred from repeated stamping. It reads Duncan over Mini Bent on the first two lines. The last line is the most blurry but it appears to read Foreign Made as best as I can make out. I removed the stem and was surprised at the length of the stepped down tenon – ¾ of an inch. There was a spiraled stinger in the airway that was dirty and pushed deep in the airway. I decided to address the heavy coat of varnish on the bowl first. I wiped it down with acetone on cotton pads and was able to remove all of it from the surface of the briar. I removed the stinger from the tenon. It was merely stuck in the airway so it was an easy removal. I think that half of the insert end is missing so it was not tight. The airway in the tenon was drilled off-centre toward the right side leaving the wall thin.I cleaned out the mortise and the airways in the shank and the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. While a bit of tars and oil came out most of the colour on the swabs came from the same stain I had removed from the exterior with the acetone. It is a reddish coloured stain that revealed that the entire bowl had been dipped in stain.I sanded the bowl with micromesh sanding pads to remove the rest of the finish. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cotton pad after micromesh grit. There are a few dark spots on the briar – right side mid bowl and on the underside on the right as well. I am not sure what they are but they are not removed by sanding. As I polished it the fills in the bowl became very visible. The briar had taken on a shine. The fills were very visible so I used a Cherry stain pen to touch up the fills around the bowl sides, bottom and shank. A light stroke across the fill with the pen hid the fill and I set the bowl aside to let the stain cure. The fills blended in but the dark spots remained on the left and underside. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar of the bowl with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. I took photos of the bowl at this point in the process. The photos show the condition of the bowl at this point in the process. The bowl was looking quite good at this point with some beautiful grain showing through. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the tooth chatter and marks with 220 grit sandpaper. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished the bowl with Before & After Pipe Polish – Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I polished stem and the bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The grain really came alive with the buffing and works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. Together the pipe looks much better than when I began and has a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 4 inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. I will be putting this little pocket pipe/nosewarmer on the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your collection. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this unique little pipe.

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Cleaned an 80+year old KBB Yello-Bole Churchwarden 2095


Blog by Steve Laug

After the last challenge of the cracked bowl on the WDC Wellington House Pipe it was time to take on something that would go quickly and have some real beauty as well when finished. My brother had included just the pipe in the latest shipment that came to Vancouver from Idaho. It is a twelve inch long churchwarden. The bowl had the typical varnish coat over a oxblood stain that was peeling. There was a light cake in the bowl and the rim was dirty but the Yello-Bole Honey Cured Coating was very visible on the inner bevel of the rim top. The stamping on this one is the classic older Yello-Bole. It had the KBB cloverleaf on the left side of the shank and next to that it read YELLO-BOLE over Honey Cured Briar. ON the right side of the shank it has the shape number 2095. The stamping is in excellent shape. The stem was lightly oxidized and had the yellow circle on the top side near the shank/stem junction. There were single cut marks on both the top and underside of the stem about three inches forward from the button. There was also minimal tooth chatter and tooth marks on the stem on either side. The stem did not fit all the way into the shank when the pipe arrived in Idaho. (I have included the photos of the pipe that my brother took before he started to clean up the pipe.)cw1 cw2From a comment on a blog I wrote on the various Yello-Bole logos in my collection of these pipes I was able to narrow down a date for the pipe. Here is the link to the post and the comments on the blog: https://rebornpipes.com/2013/01/25/yello-bole-logos-from-my-collection-of-old-yello-bole-pipes/. The comment came from Troy who I consider my go to guy for Yello-Bole informantion (who has written on rebornpipes and also has a blog of his own). Troy wrote as follows on dating Yello-Bole pipes by the stamping and logos.

“I have a large KBB Yello-Bole collection, They are some of my most favorite pipes and the best smokers for the money (briar wise) you can find in my opinion. I have restored and researched them quite a bit. I have several listed on my blog that I have cleaned or restored. I own about 30-40 KBB Yello-Boles now.”

“Here is a little guide to dating KBB Yello-Boles. If it has the KBB stamped in the clover leaf it was made 1955 or earlier as they stopped the stamping after being acquired by S.M. Frank. From 1933-1936 they were stamped Honey Cured Briar. Pipes stems stamped with the propeller logo they were made in the 30s or 40s no propellers were used after the 40s. Yello-Bole also used a 4 digit code stamped on the pipe in the 30s. If the pipe had the Yello-Bole circle stamped on the shank it was made in the 30s this stopped after 1939. If the pipe was stamped BRUYERE rather than briar it was made in the 30s.”

From that information I ascertained the following. The churchwarden I had was stamped with KBB in the cloverleaf on the shank side which told me that the pipe was made before 1955. It is also stamped under the YELLO-BOLE name stamp with the words Honey Cured Briar which put its manufacture between 1933 and 1936. Further the four digit shape code 2095 also put the date in the 1930s. With all of that collected I knew the pipe was made between 1933 and 1936 which means that this old Churchwarden has seen a lot of life. I wish it could tell its story.

My brother included some close up photos of the rim top and the peeling varnish on the bowl sides and bottom for information. You can also see some peeling of the varnish on the rim top along with the darkening and overflow of cake.cw3 cw4 cw5The next photo shows the stamping on the left side of the shank. The stamping is clear and readable.cw6The next two photos show the condition of the stem. You can see the tooth chatter and marks on the stem surface on both sides. None of them are deep and all should be able to be polished out.cw7The next photo shows the cut mark on the top side of the stem. There is a matching mark on the underside.cw8My brother cleaned up the pipe – reaming the bowl, cleaning out the shank, airway in the shank and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. The inside was clean. He scrubbed the briar and stem with Murphy’s Oil Soap and cleaned out the buildup on the rim and the grime on the sides of the bowl. The next four photos show what the pipe looked like when it arrived in Vancouver. It was ready to clean up and bring back to life.cw9 cw10I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim. The beveled inner edge shows the Yello-Bole coating. It is also visible on the inside of the bowl.cw11I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and worked on the tooth chatter on each end with the same sandpaper.cw12 cw13I took closeup photos of the Yello-Bole stinger apparatus. The first shows the topside of the stinger and the second the underside.cw14I took closeup photos of the existing finish on the bowl to show the peeling varnish and the speckled finish.cw15I wiped down the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the varnish coat and I was surprised by the grain that came through once the varnish was gone.cw16 cw17I waxed the bowl with Conservator’s Wax so that I could see the scratching and spots that needed more attention on the briar. A bit of a shine makes issues in the briar stand out.cw18 cw19I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cotton pad to remove any polishing dust left behind.cw20 cw21I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil after each set of three pads. After the last set of pads I rubbed it down with a final coat of oil and set the stem aside to dry.cw22 cw23 cw24I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to polish out the last of the scratches in the briar. I gave the bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the bowl with a clean buffing pad. The next photos show the finished bowl.cw25 cw26 cw27 cw28I put the stem on the bowl and buffed the entirety again with Blue Diamond and gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad and hand buffed the pipe with a microfibre cloth to deepen the polish. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is cleaned, all varnish has been removed from the bowl and shank and it has been waxed and buffed. The finished pipe has a rich shine and all of the grain is visible through the finish. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.cw29 cw30 cw31 cw32 cw33 cw34 cw35 cw36