Tag Archives: Repairing a cracked bowl

A Pipe Restorer’s Nightmare


Blog by Steve Laug

I think that it is very good for me too acknowledge issues that come up with pipes that I have restored and sold. I have done it before and will continue to do so to maintain both my integrity and humility! My Mom used to say that confession is good for the soul. She has been proved right over and over again. However, this confession is one that I have never had to do before. Thankfully, I have had this particular “mess” happen to me only once in 30+ years. I sold a Peterson Irish Second 05 Calabash to a fellow in Michigan. It was a hefty piece of briar and quite beautiful even with the flaws and fills around the bowl. He fell in love with it and wanted it. As is my habit, I went over it carefully before I sent it to make sure that it was sound both inside and out. I was happy with it, so I packed it up and sent it out to him. A few days after he received it I got an email from him asking me to give him a call as he wanted to chat about his pipes.

I called and after the normal pleasantries were exchanged, he told me what had happened. He had smoked the pipe twice and on the second smoke he noticed smoke coming out of a crack under his thumb on the back side of the bowl. That made him notice that it was also coming out  of a crack on the left and front of the bowl. He examined them and saw some cracks that had formed in those places during his smoke.

I was blown away as I had carefully checked it over both inside and out and did not find anything even close to cracks. This is why I ream the bowl back to bare briar to check it carefully! The best that we could figure out was that the removal of the cake had allowed the heat from the burning tobacco to open cracks that were not visible before. From his description they seemed to be quite large and long. I offered him a replacement and suggested that he use this one for firewood but he would not be persuaded. He wanted me to repair the pipe so he could keep smoking it! He was quite certain this was the course of action he wanted. I sent him the replacement anyway and asked that he mark the cracks for me when he sent it back so I could make sure I was not missing anything. He agreed and said he would have it out that week.

Let me tell you waiting for that pipe to arrive seemed like it would never end. Finally after at least 10 days his package arrived. I had to laugh when I saw the package. The box he chose was great. It was printed with Dr. Sasquatch smoking a pipe and wearing a great smoking jacket. I took it to the worktable and opened the box. I unpacked the well packed pipe from its protective wrappings. True to his word he had marked the areas on the bowl with yellow chalk so I would not miss them. I took photos of the bowl when it arrived. I include those below. I went over the entire bowl with a bright light and a lens. I checked the inside of the bowl for cracks and crevices as well as the outside. I marked the ends of each crack that I found on the outside of the bowl with a black Sharpie pen. When I finished there were 16 marks on the briar both within and on the edges of the yellow chalked areas.I double and triple checked the briar to make sure I found them all. The good news was I had! I then used a microdrill bit in my Dremel to drill a small pilot hole at the end of each crack to keep it from spreading further. These cracks seem to have spidered with the heat and I was hoping to stop that process from continuing. I used a dental pick to trace the cracks along the surface of the briar. I filled in the cracks and the pilot holes with briar dust and clear super glue. I used a dental spatula to press the dust into the holes and the cracks. The process is pretty simple – I spread a little CA glue first and then use the spatula to push the dust into the glued areas. At this point in the process I dropped the ball and forgot to take photos! My words will have to tell the story. I sanded the repaired areas with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth them out and blend them into the surrounding briar. I polished the bowl with micromesh sanding pads to polish the areas. At this point I was not trying to hide them just smooth them out. Once I finished I rubbed the bowl down with some Before & After Restoration Balm and let it sit for ten minutes then buffed it off with a soft cloth. The bowl looked pretty good.

Now it was time to address the inside of the bowl. I needed to fill in the cracks in the bowl walls and the only way I know that works is to use JB Weld. It dries hard and does not gas off in heat. It is neutral and provides a good heat barrier when smoking the pipe. I wiped out the inside of the bowl with alcohol and cotton pads to make sure it was clean.I mixed up a batch of JB Weld on a piece of paper using a small tooth pick to combine the two parts of the product. I put a pipe cleaner in the airway to keep it clear of the product and to make sure I did not fill in the airway with it. I then applied it to the walls of the bowl with a dental spatula.I checked the coverage on the inside of the bowl with a bright light. It had been evenly applied to walls and the bottom of the bowl. Now it had to cure. I set it aside in a pipe rest for two days until it had hardened. Once the repair had cured and was hard I sanded it with my Dremel and a sanding drum. I took it back so that the JB Weld was in the cracks and crevices and the briar around was smooth. I sanded it further with a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper. I wanted the bowl surface to be smooth touch but rough enough that a cake would build and adhere to it. It is hard to describe but I know what it feels like. I wiped the bowl down with a cotton pad and alcohol to remove the sanding debris.Once the bowl was clean – more clean than the above photo! I mixed up a batch of my bowl coating. I used sour cream and charcoal powder. I mix them together into a black paste. I use two capsules of charcoal for one teaspoon of sour cream. This coating, as strange as it sounds, dries without a smell and facilitates the build up of a natural cake. I put a pipe cleaner in the airway and use a folded pipe cleaner to paint the walls and bottom of the bowl with mixture. I set the bowl in a pipe rest and let the coating dry.The beauty of the mixture is that as it dries it turns black. Once it had cured to touch I took the following photos to show what it looks like. You can still see the light grey streaks in it so it is not completely hardened yet but once it is these disappear. I gave the pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I had buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. I will let it sit for a few more days to thoroughly dry and then it will be on its way to Michigan for my patient customer to smoke again and enjoy.

Help for what looked like a hopeless 1956 Dunhill Shell Briar LBS Long Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

A friend of mine, Scott picked up this deeply sandblasted Dunhill LBS in a shape I would call a Liverpool but Dunhill called a long billiard. He bought it off eBay and when it arrived it had a lot of surprises for him under the thick build up of cake and grime. He has purchased enough estate pipes know what he was getting into but this one had even more issues than he reckoned it would have. He sent me the eBay sellers photos and I have included them below. This is what he saw and honestly if I had seen the pipe I would have sprung for it immediately. The sandblast though dirty, is quite rugged and stunning. The seller dated the pipe as a 1956 based on the following stamping. On the heel of the bowl it was stamped with the shape designation – LBS followed by DUNHILL [over] SHELL BRIAR (Sandblast finish) on the shank. That was followed by MADE IN ENGLAND6 . Next to the shank/stem junction it was stamped with a Circle 4S – the group 4 size designation and the S for Shell Briar.  I turned to PipePhil’s Site and looked up the shape letters that Dunhill used on the helpful chart that is included there (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/shapes-l.html). I did a screen capture of the pertinent part of the chart to show the shape letters noted above.   I have included that below.The bowl had a very thick cake and the rim top had a heavy lava  buildup. The bowl had a crack running down the back side of the bowl. It was hard to know how bad it was because of the filth of the dirty pipe. It was a good bet that it would be messy inside the bowl under the cake! The stem was oxidized, calcified and had deep tooth dents on both sides at the button as well as wear on the button surface itself. It would be a challenge.When the pipe arrived at Scott’s place it was in rougher condition than he had expected. Nonetheless he went to work on it. He knew that he needed to ream the cake back to bare briar and clean up the exterior of the bowl to know for sure how bad the damage was on the inside and outside of the bowl. He did a great job cleaning up the exterior and reaming and cleaning out the bowl so the damage on the inside and out were incredibly visible. This pipe was in serious trouble. Scott and I share and affinity for these older craggy Dunhills so he sent me an email. I have included that below.

Hi Steve, Great job on that 1936 Dunhill.  Are you going to be putting it up for sale?  If so, I’m interested.  Also, I have a large 1956 shell briar Dunhill billiard that has a great blast and good stem, but has a crack in the front and a bad interior.  It’s out of my comfort zone – will you do such work for pay?

Thanks,  Scott

We sent several emails back and forth regarding the pipe discussing what needed to be done. I asked him to send me some pics of the pipe after his clean up. He did so along with the email below.

Hi  Steve, Here are pics of the Dunhill.  The crack is on the shank side, straight above the shank – it’s splits to form two cracks (hard to see).  I cleaned the bowl (inside and out) then put a clamp around the bowl to see if it would push together, and it moved a lot, but not all the way, so the next step would have been to use compressed air to get any slivers/dust out  of the crack.  That’s where I stopped, figuring it had waited for 30 or so years, so it would be okay.

There also seems to be some rot on the rim of the bowl and there is a small chunk out at the top of the crack.  My plan had been to sand down the top after the repair was done.

Thanks, Scott When I saw the pipe in his pictures I fell in love with the shape and the rich, rugged looking blast. I could see at once why Scott had been drawn to it. We chatted back and forth and the long and short of it is that it is now on my work desk to see what I can do with it. I will give it a shot and then send it back to Scott once it is finished. I took photos of when I received it. The rim top looked rough. It was beat up and missing a chunk over the crack on the back of the bowl. The finish was pretty much removed. The bowl was clean and the damage on the inside was extensive. The stem had cleaned up well. The tooth marks are visible in the photos of the stem that I have included below.I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It is faint in spots but is still very readable.I removed the stem from the shank to prepare to work on the bowl. I put the stem aside and took pictures of the bowl to just savor the rugged sandblast. Even the rim top, as damaged as it was still has a bit of the sandblast finish that I thought would be redeemable. I cleaned out the cracks on the exterior with alcohol to remove the remaining debris. I checked the entire bowl with a bright light and lens to make sure I could see all the cracks and not be surprised with ones I had missed. Sure enough they were all around the back side of the bowl. They ran from the rim down and then turned to the left and then down once again. I layered briar dust and clear CA glue in the cracks. I repaired the chip out of the back side of the rim top at the same time in the same manner. Before it completely dried I used a brass bristle brush to clean up the repairs and blend them into the nooks and crannies of the sandblast finish. I find that if you do not do this you end up with flat spots where the repair occurredOnce the repair cured I wiped the areas down with alcohol on a cotton pad and stained the areas with a walnut stain pen. I would use a combination of stains later to further blend them in. I just wanted to see what the repair looked like and be able to send photos to Scott.With the exterior finished it was time to work on the inside of the bowl and deal with all of the spidering cracks and large cracks around the interior walls. They were not just confined to the back of the bowl but covered the majority of the bowl and heel surface. I mixed a batch of JB Weld with a dental spatula and applied it to the walls of the bowl with a folded pipe cleaner to act like a paint brush. I pushed the JB Weld into the cracks in the bowl walls and gave the entire interior a coat of the product. I have checked out the research on the product and find that it dries inert and does not gas off when heated. I have used it on my own pipes and smoked them for over 10 or more years with no issues. With that finished I called it a night and set the bowl aside for the repairs on the interior to cure overnight. In the morning I sanded inner edge of the bowl with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out that area. I wrapped a dowel with 220 grit sandpaper extending it just below the dowel so that it would form a cone on the end and allow me to sand the bottom of the bowl. I worked on it to smooth the repairs and remove as much of the JB Weld as possible while leaving it in the cracks and fissures of the walls. With the bowl repair finished I stained the bowl and rim with Mahogany, Walnut and Black stain pens to match the combination of stains used on the bowl that was not repaired. I was happy with the overall look of the pipe. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to get into the nooks and crannies of the blast. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth  and shoe brush to raise the shine.      I cleaned the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol to remove my sanding debris and residual tars and oils in the mortise and airway. I cleaned the internals of the stem the same way. Once finished the pipe was clean and repaired inside and out.Now it was time to mix a bowl coating. Different folks used different things for this. I use a mix of sour cream and charcoal powder. I learned this from a pipe maker friend. I use it on a bowl that I have repaired with JB Weld because when I sand the bowl it is very smooth and I want to facilitate the building of a carbon cake. The bowl coating does that. Surprisingly it cures neutral in taste and imparts no flavour to the tobacco when smoked. Within a few bowls it is basically covered with the developing cake. It works for me!I applied the mixture to the bottom and walls of the bowl with a folded pipe cleaner. I paint it on and smooth it out with the pipe cleaner. I am not looking for a thick coating of the product but merely a top coat. Too thick a coat will just peel off when the pipe is smoked. I want it to stay put for a few bowls anyway! I set the bowl aside for the bowl coating to cure and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the stem with the flame of a Bic lighter to lift the tooth marks. The method worked extremely well and I was able to lift the majority of them. There were two marks – one on each side that lifted but needed to be filled. I filled them in with clear CA glue. Once it cured I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper and reshaped the button edges. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the vulcanite stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.     This really is a beautiful Dunhill Shell Briar LBS Long Billiard.  The relatively short vulcanite taper stem just adds to an already great looking pipe. If you did not know where the cracks were you would never be able to find them now. The rich combination of Mahogany, Black and Walnut stains on the bowl give depth and dimension to the sandblast. It came alive with the polishing and waxing. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax as I did not want to fill in the valleys. I gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Dunhill Shell Briar LBS Group 4 pipe is a beauty and fits nicely in the hand and looks very good. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. . The weight of the pipe is 40grams/1.41oz. Once the bowl coating completely cures I will be packing it up and sending it back to Scott. I can’t wait to hear what he thinks of it when he has it in hand. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it.

Dropped in at the Dunhill Deep End


Blog by Kenneth Lieblich

This is the first and introductory blog by Kenneth. We have been working through his Grandfather’s pipes and others that he has purchased to help him learn the processes that I use to restore and refurbish pipes. He is a quick study and able student. Give his first blog a read and enjoy it. Thanks Kenneth and welcome to rebornpipes.

I must admit that I never thought that the first pipe I ever restored would be a Dunhill Shell Briar Bulldog. Talk about nerve-wracking! I figured I would start out on an old clunker of a pipe so that if I made a mess of it, there was no great loss. But Steve Laug insisted that this was the one I had work on first because it was, in fact, a microcosm of pipe restoration all in one little pipe. I want to express my gratitude to Steve for not only permitting me to post the story of this pipe’s restoration, but most especially for guiding me every step of the way through the process. The vagaries of life (thanks to Covid) necessitated several FaceTime and Zoom chats, but he was always generous, friendly, and helpful. Any compliments on this restoration are for him – any criticisms are for me.

This charming Dunhill Shell Briar Bulldog pipe belonged to my paternal grandfather and was one of seventeen pipes left to my father, and which he has now given to me. A little detective work over at http://www.pipephil.eu revealed that this Dunhill dates from 1937 – which would have made my grandfather 29 years old when it was made.He died in 1975, so this pipe has not been smoked for at least 45 years (and probably more). As a side note, while this restoration was ongoing, I also restored his Dunhill Rollagas lighter (dated to the mid-1950s), so that I could use it to light the pipe one day. In that pipe will be some very old tobacco that is also from my grandfather. I am not sure what the tobacco is, but it smells lovely. I have another two Dunhill pipes I inherited from my grandfather, but I will save those restorations for future posts! As you can see from these initial photos, this poor pipe had some serious issues! The front of the bowl had a large crack, reaching all the way from the rim to the heel. There was also another crack (albeit considerably smaller) on the opposite side of the bowl. Smaller it may have been, but no less daunting to me. There was some cleaning that needed to be done inside the shank and stem, but less than might have been expected from an 85-year-old pipe. The usual routine of isopropyl alcohol, pipe cleaners, Q-tips, etc. made short work of that. Unfortunately, I do not have a handy brother like Jeff Laug to help clean my pipes, so I did it myself. I learn by doing, so this was just as well.

After using both the Pipnet Reamer and the KleenReem, the bowl was stripped down to the bare briar. This afforded me a good look at the condition of the bowl and just how far the two cracks had penetrated the wood. The smaller crack was not any worse than it initially appeared, but the large crack went all the way to the underside of the bowl. I cleaned the stummel with Murphy’s Oil Soap and that made a world of difference to the overall appearance of the wood, but not to the cracks, obviously. I prepared some J.B. Weld epoxy and filled the breach from the inside, ensuring that the epoxy did not ooze out to the front. I filled in the crack from the outside with a mixture of briar dust and cyanoacrylate adhesive. This was a tricky business, as the crack varied from ‘gaping’ at the rim to essentially ‘imperceptible’ at the heel. After putting down some layers of briar dust and glue, I noticed that there were still some small gaps that only iPhone magnification could reveal, as seen here. These were soon mended and left to cure.Following this, some rustication was needed, and a brass-bristle brush was the tool I used. In fact, the brush was used several times – including after I applied some stain to the briar-glue repair. The stain was used in conjunction with the Before & After Restoration Balm, to help meld everything together. I must admit that I wish I could have done this step better – all I could see were flaws, but everyone else told me how much better it looked, especially when compared with how it began. These photographs show you that it wasn’t complete, but I guess it really was better. Once this had fully cured, I coated the entire inside of the bowl with a mixture of activated charcoal and my wife’s homemade yogurt. Once hardened, this provided a good, slightly rough surface for a new cake to build. Then it was time for the stem. It was in pretty good condition, considering its age. There were a couple of relatively minor tooth marks and the button needed some work. However, without doubt, restoring the stem was the most frustrating part of the restoration. It began easily enough, with the stem taking a swim in the Before & After Hard Rubber Deoxidizer. In order to address the chatter, I waved the flame of a BIC lighter over the mouthpiece. I also took some of the cyanoacrylate adhesive and filled in the deeper tooth marks. But then the tough stuff came: sanding, more sanding, then even more sanding. Did I mention the sanding? As you know from Steve’s similar work, I used 220, 400, and 600 sandpapers to wet-sand the stem. Then followed that with all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) – using Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil in between each pad. The pictures only tell a fraction of the story. Quite frankly, my lack of experience was my undoing, as I had to do this entire sanding sequence twice over. It just did not look right the first time. In fact, I was not even convinced that it looked right the second time, but Steve reassured me (with his typical kindness) that I was merely suffering from the same sort of pipe perfectionism that he does – not to mention the fact that this pipe is 85 years old: it is not meant to look brand new! At some point, one has to stop or else one will simply sand the pipe away into oblivion!

At long last, I was at the point where I could throw down some more Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil, Before & After Restoration Balm, and Paragon II Wax. Microfibre cloths, horsehair shoe brushes, and buffing pads followed – all to provide a final product (hopefully) worthy of my beloved grandfather’s memory. This was certainly a labour of love and I look forward to firing up his 85-year-old Dunhill pipe, with his 65+ year-old Dunhill lighter, filled to the rim with his 50+ year-old tobacco. The dimensions of the pipe are as follows: length 4⅝ inches; height 1⅝ inches; bowl diameter 1½ inches; chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is ⅞ of an ounce (or 27 grams).

Thank you very much for reading and I welcome and encourage your comments. Kenneth sent me this message and photo on Facebook.

This is my grandfather, Alfred Lieblich,  in Vienna in 1938. Look what’s in his mouth! Amazing!

Refurbishing a Second Bertram From the Lot Of 13 – a Bent Egg # 25


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

Last year while on a Face Time chat with my Guru, Mentor and friend, Steve Laug, we got talking about the Bertram lot that he had been working on at that point in time. He spoke about how overwhelming it was just to look at the large lot of about 200 plus pipes that he and Jeff had acquired. Never to miss an opportunity to add to my meager pipe lot that was available for me to work on, I suggested that if it was okay with him I would be more than willing to take a few of them off his hands. We worked out the details and soon a job lot of 12 pipes traveled all the way from US to Canada and then on to India!! That was one long journey undertaken by this lot of Bertram pipes. Here is the lot of Bertram pipes that I received. This lot contained a variety of nicely shaped and grained pipes which I had been looking forward to work on.The second pipe that I decided to work on from this lot is a Full Bent Egg shaped pipe, marked in green arrow, with swirls to the front and cross grains to the sides and over the shank surfaces. This pipe is stamped on the left shank surface as “Bertram” in running hand over “WASHINGTON D C” in block letters in a straight line. The grade code “25” is stamped on the bottom surface at the shank end. The stampings are slightly worn out but still readable by naked eye. The bent vulcanite saddle stem is sans any stamping. The size and feel of the pipe is solid in hand. This pipe has been well researched and chronicled by Steve when he worked on many of the Bertram pipes in his possession and thus, shall not waste time in proverbial “reinventing the wheel”. Interested readers may like to follow the link given below to get to know the brand better. https://rebornpipes.com/2019/04/10/the-4th-of-a-collection-of-bertrams-a-bertram-dublin-70s/

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
This pipe has a compact bowl size that narrows slightly towards the rim with a sharply raked round shank and a bent saddle stem that lends itself nicely to clenching. The stummel boasts of some beautiful cross grains to the sides and all around the shank. The stummel is covered in dirt and dust. The entire stummel is peppered with a number of fills, both large and small. There is a thick layer of cake in the chamber and some damage is likely to the back of the rim top surface. The stem is lightly oxidized with tooth chatter in the bite zone. The pipe, as it sits on my work table, presents an encouraging picture. DETAILED INSPECTION OF THE PIPE AND OBSERVATIONS
The chamber has a slight taper towards the rim top and a chamber depth of about 1 ¼ inches. The outer edge of the rim towards the shank is slightly flattened while the rest of it is perfectly rounded. The chamber has an even layer of thick hard cake with remnants of un-burnt tobacco seen at the heel of the chamber. The rim surface has light traces of lava overflow over the rim surface. Through this layer of lava, a few dings can be seen over the rim top surface. The outer rim edge is sans any damage. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be commented upon after the cake has been taken down to the bare briar. The ghost smells in the chamber are not very strong. The stummel appears solid to the touch all around and hence I do not foresee any serious damage to the walls in the form of burnout/ deep heat fissures/ lines or pits. The ghost smells should reduce once the cake from the chamber is removed and the shank has been cleaned. The smooth stummel surface is covered in dust and grime through which one can make out the beautiful cross grains over the sides of the bowl and shank. The stummel surface is shows a couple of large and small fills. These fills stand out like flesh wounds against the briar surface. The briar is looking lifeless and bone dry. Thorough cleaning and rising of the stummel under warm water should loosen old fills while also serving to highlight the grain patterns. Once the stummel has been thoroughly cleaned, these fills will be more apparent and I intend to refresh only those fills which have loosened out with a fresh fill of briar dust and superglue. Micromesh polishing will help in blending these fills while imparting a nice shine to the briar. The mortise has a reservoir at the bottom that has accumulated oils, tars and gunk. The walls of the shank are filthy and covered in grime and dust. The mortise appears to be clogged as a pipe cleaner did not easily pass through it. I have worked on many Pete System pipes and cleaning the sump had always been a chore. Fervently hoping that is not the case this time around! The fit of the stem in to the mortise is slightly tight. However, once the shank walls are cleaned, this issue should be resolved.The high quality vulcanite saddle stem is lightly oxidized. Some minor tooth chatter and calcified deposit is seen on both the upper and lower stem surfaces in the bite zone and at the bottom of the button edge respectively. The tenon has accumulated ash and oils/ tars that have dried out on the inside as well as on the outside. The horizontal slot has scratch marks which will have to be addressed. The tooth chatter and the calcified deposits will be removed by sanding with a piece of 220 grit sand paper.THE PROCESS
I started the restoration of this pipe by first cleaning the internals of the stem with bristled pipe cleaners and 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol. I scraped out the dried oils and tars from the tenon end with my fabricated knife and also removed the dried oils and tars from the slot end. I followed it up by sanding the entire stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper to remove the surface oxidation. It has been our (Abha, my wife and self) experience that sanding a stem before dunking it in to the deoxidizer solution helps in bringing the deep seated oxidation to the surface which in turn make further cleaning a breeze with fantastic result.I dropped the stem in to “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution developed by my friend Mark Hoover. The solution helps to draw out heavy oxidation to the surface, making its further removal a breeze, while the minor oxidation is eliminated to a very great extent. The initial sanding helps to draw out the complete oxidation as the sanding opens up the stem surface that has been initially covered with oxidation. I usually dunk stems of 4-5 pipes that are in-line for restoration and this pipe is marked in pastel blue arrow. I generally allow the stems to soak in this solution overnight to do its work.While the stem was soaking in the deoxidizer solution, I worked on the stummel by first reaming the chamber with size 2 Castleford reamer head. I further scraped the chamber walls with my fabricated knife to remove the remaining carbon deposits where the reamer head could not reach. I scraped out the lava overflow from the rim top surface. Once the cake was reamed back to the bare briar, I used a 150 grit sand paper followed by 220 grit sand paper to remove all the traces of remaining cake and also to smooth out the inner walls of the chamber surface. Finally, to remove the residual carbon dust, I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol. And it was at this stage that I got the first (and hopefully the last) inkling of the likely damage to the heel of the chamber. The mortise and draught hole had been over zealously cleaned with pipe cleaners/ shank brush by the previous piper and which had resulted in a deep trough from the draught hole to the center of the heel with raised edges on the sides. This trough is indicated with red arrows. If or not the damage has extended to the foot of the stummel will be confirmed once the stummel surface has been cleaned. The chamber walls, inner and outer rim edges are pristine and without any damage. I followed up the reaming with cleaning the mortise using cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I scraped the walls of the mortise with my fabricated knife to remove the dried oils and tars. The ghost smells have been eliminated and the chamber smells clean.With the bowl internals clean, I move to clean the exterior of the stummel. I used a hard bristled tooth brush and Briar Cleaner, a product that has been developed by Mark Hoover, to scrub the stummel and rim top. I set the stummel aside for 10 minutes for the product to draw out all the grime from the briar surface. After 10 minutes, I washed the stummel under running warm water with anti oil dish washing detergent till the stummel surface was clean. I dried it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth. I simultaneously cleaned the shank internals with the detergent and hard bristled shank brush and set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. The stummel surface has cleaned up nicely and the beautiful grain patterns are now on full display. The fills, even the smallest ones, are now clearly discernible. I probed each fill with a sharp dental tool to check for solidity and thankfully, each fill was nice and solid without any give, save for the fills at the foot of the stummel. I took a closer look at the foot of the stummel and the worst of my fears was staring right back at me with a smile!!! There is a small smiley crack right in the centre of the foot. Truth be told, looking at the heel, I had inkling that the foot may have some such damage, but now to be sure that the damage does exist, is painful. Desperately seeking some positives, I was relieved to note that the damage has not progressed to an extent that would be termed as a burnout. I did the tap test over and around the damaged foot (with the back of a spoon or any hard instrument gently tap the damaged area) and was relieved to hear a crisp sharp note signifying that nothing is lost. The briar around still feels solid over and around the damaged foot. The pipe still has many years of life left in it and with the repairs that I plan, this will last even longer. I plan to drill a counter hole at either ends of the crack and seal it with briar dust and super glue. This will prevent further spread of the crack in either direction. The trough formed at the heel of the chamber will be spot filled with J B Weld which will prevent the burning tobacco from coming in to direct contact with the now weak spot in the heal.While the stummel was drying, the next morning, Abha removed the stem that had been soaking in the deoxidizer solution overnight. She cleaned the stem under running warm water and scrubbed the raised oxidation from the stem surface using a scotch brite pad and cleaned the airway with a thin shank brush. She further removed the oxidation by scrubbing the stem with 0000 grade steel wool and applied a little EVO to rehydrate the stem. There is a need to further sand the stem to completely remove the oxidation.My significant half, Abha, used a 220 grit sand paper to sand the stem and remove all the oxidation that was raised to the surface. This step further reduced the tooth chatter and bite marks present on the stem. She wiped the stem with Murphy’s Oil soap on a cotton swab. This helps in cleaning the stem surface while removing the loosened oxidation. As is the norm, whenever she works on a pipe, taking pictures NEVER EVER crosses her otherwise sharp mind!!! No exceptions here…

To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, she polished it by wet sanding with 1500 to 2000 grit sandpapers followed by further wet sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. She wiped the stem with a moist cloth after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil to rejuvenate the vulcanite. The finished stem is shown below. I checked the fit of the stem in to the mortise of the stummel and realized that the fit is very loose. This may happen when the mortise has been cleaned of the entire accumulated gunk and the briar has dried out completely. I shall address this issue by moistening the mortise with water and if that does not work, I shall use more invasive methods. RESTORATION ON THIS PIPE WAS PUT ON HOLD AS ALL THE NECESSARY TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT REQUIRED FOR FURTHER REPAIRS ARE AT MY PLACE OF WORK AND I WAS ON LEAVE INITIALLY AND THEREAFTER IN A NATION WIDE LOCKDOWN TO CONTAIN THE SPREAD OF THE DEADLY CORONA VIRUS!!!

PART II
Finally back at my work place…… After enjoying a compulsorily extended leave of three months with family and having honed my culinary and domestic chores skill set, I was happy to rejoin my duty and get back to completing the pending pipe restorations. The first in line was this Bertram Bent Egg # 25.

I decided to address the crack to the foot of the stummel. I marked the end points of the crack on either ends with a sharp dental tool under magnification. This helps to identify these end points later with naked eye and also provides initial traction for the drill bit to bite in. With a 1 mm drill bit mounted on to my hand held rotary machine, I drilled a hole each on either ends of the crack, taking care not to go too deep and end up drilling a through-hole.Simultaneously, I gouged out a few old fills that had loosened out from the foot of the stummel. I cleaned the stummel with isopropyl alcohol and cotton swab as I prepared the surface for the fill.I filled the gouges and the drilled holes with a mix of CA superglue and briar dust and set the stummel aside for the fill to cure. A few hours later, the fills had hardened completely. I sand them down with a flat head needle file to achieve a rough match with the rest of the stummel. I fine tuned the match with the rest of the surface by further sanding with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I shall decide to stain the stummel or otherwise after I have finished with the polishing with micromesh pads.I evened out the dents and dings from the rim top surface by sanding it with a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper. It was a tricky job since the rim top surface is not flat but slopes outwards from the inner to the outer edge. This peculiar shape ruled out topping the rim top. Now that the external repairs are done, I decided to address the trough that was formed at the heel of the chamber. To protect the heel from coming in to direct contact with the burning tobacco and also to prevent the heat from reaching the foot of the stummel causing a burnout, I plan, firstly, to coat only the heel of the chamber with J B Weld followed by a second coat of activated charcoal and yogurt to the entire chamber which would assist in faster cake formation. J B Weld is a two-part epoxy Cold Weld that consists of two parts; hardener and steel which are mixed in equal parts in a ratio of 1:1 with hardening time of 5-6 minutes and complete curing time of 6-8 hours. I poured the contents of the two tubes and mixed it well. With a flat bamboo frond, I applied this mix, as evenly as possible, over the intended areas. I worked fast to ensure a complete and even coating of the trough in the heel and set the stummel aside for the J B Weld to harden.By the next afternoon when I got back to working on this pipe, the J B Weld coat had completely cured and hardened considerably. With a folded piece of 150 grit sandpaper, I tried to sand the weld coating to a smooth surface. However, I could not sand the Weld as there was no space for maneuvering my finger with the sand paper. I decided to use a conical grinding stone which I had received along with my DIY hand held rotary tool kit and accessories. I mounted the conical grinding stone on to the rotary tool, set the speed at its lowest RPM and sanded the J B Weld coat till I had as thin a coat as was essential to protect and insulate the heel from the direct heat of the burning tobacco. I did not apply any downward pressure while sanding and let the rotary tool use the motor rpm to sand the weld to desired thickness.I followed it by wet sanding the stummel with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads, wiping frequently with a moist cloth to check the progress. I really like the looks of the stummel at this point in restoration. The grains and the clean lines of this piece of briar are worthy of appreciation. Next, I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” deep in to the briar with my finger tips and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful grain patterns displayed in their complete splendor. I further buffed it with a horse hair brush. The dark browns of the bird’s eye and cross grains spread across the stummel makes for a visual treat. It really is a nice piece of briar. With the stummel rejuvenation almost complete, save for the final wax polish, I worked the stem. I moistened the shank with a q-tip dipped in water. I checked the seating of the tenon in to the mortise after an hour. It was still very loose. This called for stretching the tenon to improve the seating of the stem in to the shank. I selected a drill bit that was slightly larger in diameter than the tenon air hole. I heated the tenon with the flame of a lighter till it was slightly pliable and inserted the back of the drill bit in to the opening to enlarge it. I cooled the tenon under cold running water to set the increased diameter of the tenon. I checked the fit and it was much better, though not very snug. I remedied this issue by applying a coat of clear nail polish and set it aside for the nail polish to dry out. Now that the cosmetic aspects of this pipe have dealt with, all that remained was the functional aspect that needs to be taken care of. The J B Weld coated surface needs to be protected from the direct heat of the burning tobacco and for this; I coat the complete chamber walls with a mix of activated charcoal and yogurt and set it aside to harden naturally. The mix has to be of the right consistency; neither too thick nor too runny. It should be of a consistency that is thick enough to spread easily, evenly and stick to the walls. Also the coating should not be very thick. A thin film is all that is required. Another important aspect to remember is that it is essential to insert a pipe cleaner in to the mortise and through the draught hole for two reasons; first is obviously to keep the draught hole from getting clogged and secondly, the pipe cleaner absorbs all the moisture from the mix and helps in faster and even drying of the coat.To put the finishing touches, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and polished the stummel and stem with Blue Diamond compound. This compound helps to remove the minor scratch marks that remain from the sanding.Next, I mount another cotton buffing wheel that I have earmarked for carnauba wax and applied several coats of the wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The grains on this finished pipe looks amazingly beautiful and coupled with the size, heft and the hand feel, makes it quite a desirable pipe. If you are interested to enjoy this pipe for years to come, please let Steve know and we shall make arrangements for it to reach you. P.S. In one of my previous write up, a question “Why do I enjoy bringing these old battered and discarded pipes back to life?” had popped up in my mind. I had given my second reason in my last write up and in all my subsequent write ups I intend to share with the readers my reasons as to why I really love this hobby.

The third reason is that every pipe has a HISTORY attached to it. That history, in part, is about the maker/ carver of the pipe and the other part is the person who had posed faith in this piece of briar during his life time. Take the case of a Dunhill pipe that I had restored that once belonged to Late Mr. John Barber, an explorer who had been to Arctic and the Antarctic in the 1950s- 60s and an avid pipe smoker! His favored pipes were DUNHILL. His daughter, Farida had passed on his pipes to Steve to restore and trade these pipes for the family. Well, one of the Dunhill pipes was sent to me by Steve to let me test my skills in pipe restoration with the rider that “if I could restore it, I get to keep it!” This pipe had all the challenges that a pipe restorer usually faces while restoring a pipe and then some more. However, it was successfully repaired and restored and now is a part of my daily rotation (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/12/06/a-project-close-to-my-heart-restoring-a-dunhill-from-faridas-dads-collection/)

The point I want to convey is that whenever I smoke this pipe, it reminds me of Late Mr. John Barber and images of him smoking this pipe in the cold snow desert and the warmth, peace and comfort it must have provided him in that desolate environment…AND NOW I GET TO BE A PART OF THAT HISTORY/ LEGACY OF THE PIPE and this is what I just love!

I wish to thank each one for sparing their valuable time to read through this write up and each one is in my prayers. Stay home…stay safe!!

Breathing Life into a Worn and Beat up Dunhill Shell Briar EC Canadian for Alex


Blog by Steve Laug

In a previous blog I mentioned that around Christmas time I got together with Alex to enjoy some great hot cocoa, smoke our pipes and talk about all things pipes. I also gave him a batch of pipes that I had finished from his stash and he gave me a few more to work on for him. I always have a great time when we get together and this time was no exception. He greeted me at the door with slippers and an old smoking jacket. I took my seat in the living room among his latest pipe finds and was handed a great cup of cocoa. I set it down and we both loaded out pipes with some new Perretti’s tobacco that he had picked up. We touched the flame of the lighter to the tobacco and sat back and blissfully enjoyed the flavour. As we did Alex walked me through his latest finds. There were some amazing pipes to look at and savour. I already wrote about the Dunhill Bamboo Tanshell with a lot of nice colour happening around the bowl. I refreshed that pipe for him and wrote about it here – https://rebornpipes.com/2020/01/08/refreshing-a-dunhill-tanshell-w60-t-1962bamboo-lovat-for-alex/.

He also pulled another Dunhill from the pile of new pipes that he wanted me to work on. It was the exact opposite of the Bamboo in terms of condition. The Bamboo was relatively clean and he had already enjoyed a few bowls through it so it was a quick and easy refresh. This one was a real mess! It was another sandblast. This time it was a Shell Briar Canadian. I carefully took it in my hands and examined it. It was in very rough shape with many cracks in the briar. Alex knew the issues with the pipe but he wanted to know if I could repair it. I assured him that of course it could be repaired and the current cracks stopped. But all repairs to the cracks would essentially be cosmetic and though he could not see them they were still present. The ones going through into the bowl would need to be treated as well. I have repaired many of the pipes that I smoke in this manner and they continue to serve me undamaged for many years after the repair so I was just giving him the facts. He was fine with that and said to go ahead. So I took it home with me.

When I got home I laid it aside and tonight took it up to work on it. I examined the pipe to see what I was working with and took some photos. You can see from the first four photos below that there was something redeeming about the pipe. I think that is what Alex saw. It is a really nicely shaped Canadian. The right side of the bowl was dirty but looked very good. The back of the bowl and right side were full of cracks that went virtually the length of the bowl from the rim top to at least shank height. The rim top had significant damage to the inner edge and the crack on the right side went through to the interior and on top. The stem was pockmarked, dirty and oxidized with tooth chatter and marks on both sides just ahead of the button. Overall the pipe a wreck. I took photos of the pipe before I started my cleanup and restoration. Look closely at the second and third photos. You will see the cracks. I took a close up photo of the rim top and the back and right side of the bowl to show the crack damage. I have pointed out the cracks with red arrows for easy identification. The inner edge of the rim also shows burn and poor reaming damage. I took photos of the stem as well. The vulcanite was pitted, oxidized and calcified in the crease of the button. There were some tooth marks and chatter on the stem near the button but otherwise it looked pretty good. The pipe was stamped on the heel and underside of the shank with the following nomenclature: EC (the designation for a Canadian) followed by Dunhill over Shell Briar. That is followed by Made in England with a number 3 in superscript next to the D. This tells me that the pipe was made in 1963. After that there is a circle with a 4 in it designating the size of the pipe followed by the letter S which is the designation for Shell Briar pipes. The stamping was clear and legible which actually surprised me given the condition of the rest of the pipe.I think Jeff has spoiled me with working on clean pipes so I decided to start by cleaning up this one. I wanted it clean even before I began to work on the repairs. I find that the cleaning also helps me see things in the finish that I would otherwise miss. I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the debris from the nooks and crannies of the sand blast as well as from the inside of the cracks. I rinsed the bowl with warm water and dried it off with a cotton cloth. Once that was done the cracks were very clear but so was the natural beauty of this Canadian shape! With the exterior clean I worked on the interior. I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall knife. I did not want to risk the pressure that is put on the bowl sides by the PipNet reamer. I scraped the cake out until the walls were clear. I sanded them smooth with a dowel wrapped in 220 grit sandpaper.I cleaned out the mortise and the airway from the shank to the bowl with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I worked on it until the airway was clean and the pipe smelled clean! I cleaned the stem at the same time working around the buildup on the tenon and stem face as well as the airway and the slot. I used alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs for this as well. I was surprised at how clean the internals of the stem were. I expected it to be horrid.With the bowl clean it was time to begin the reconstructive surgery on the bowl. I used a lens to trace the cracks to their end. All of them began at the rim and worked downward. I marked the end with a correction pen (thanks for the tip Paresh). Once I had them marked I used a Dremel and microdrill bit to drill a small hole in the end of the crack to stop it from spreading. Once I had the holes drilled I filled them in with briar dust and clear Krazy Glue (CA Glue). The cracks were numerous so I took a few photos to show the extent of the repairs. My method is a bit different from Dal’s due to my glue. I fill in the crack with the glue and press the parts together. It dries quickly and with no internal pressure holds together well. I go back and fill in the cracks in the bowl with briar dust. I use a dental spatula and pick to work them into the cracks. I put a top coat of Krazy Glue to seal it. I repeat the process until the repair is complete. In the case of the large crack that goes into the interior of the bowl I pressed dust into it as well and the glue from the outside held it in place. I will give it a coat of JB Weld to protect it once I finish the bowl. Once the repairs cure I work over the repaired areas with a brass bristle brush to knock of the loose dust and bits of glue that are on the surface. I used my Dremel and sanding drum to smooth out the interior walls of the bowl and the repair to the crack on the right side of the rim top. I think that the repair is starting to look pretty good.With the repairs cured and the interior and high spots smoothed out it was time for some artistry to bring the Shell finish back to the bowl sides and rim top. I started the process by working over the repaired areas with a wire wheel on my Dremel. I worked over the areas around the sides of the bowl and the rim top. It was starting to look right. The shininess of the repairs was reduced and the finish began to show through. Now it was time to etch the surface of the briar with the Dremel and burrs. The photos that follow show the three different burrs that I use to cut the grooves to match the sandblast. The burrs worked to cut a pretty nice match in the briar.I used the wire brush again to clean off the dust left behind by the burrs. It is hard to tell from the photos but the pattern is really close to the surrounding areas of the briar bowl and shank. With the carving done approximating the sandblast finish under the repairs it was time to stain the bowl. I have found that with a Shell Briar finish I have to use a Mahogany and a Walnut stain pen to match the rest of the bowl. I streak on the Mahogany first and fill in the Walnut around the rest of the finish. I blend them together and the finished look is hard to distinguish from the original stain. I moved on to round out the inner edge of the rim and minimize the damage. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to carefully give the inner edge a very light bevel. Once I was finished with the shaping I ran a Walnut Stain Pen around the freshly sanded edge to blacken it.With the finish repaired and restained I rubbed it down with Before and After Restoration Balm. It is a product developed by Mark Hoover to clean, enliven and protect briar. I worked it into the briar with my finger tips and a horse hair shoe brush. I let it sit for about 10 minutes and buffed it off with a cotton cloth. You can see the results below. With the exterior finish and the repairs completed it was time to mix up a batch of JB Weld to coat the inside of the bowl and protect the walls where the cracks went through. I mixed the Weld and put a pipe cleaner in the airway to keep the weld from sealing off the airway in the bowl. I applied the mixture to the walls with a dental spatula. Once had the walls covered around the area of the cracks I set the bowl aside to cure. I did not put the mixture in the heel of the bowl as it was solid and had no issues. I set the bowl aside and turned to address the oxidation, tooth marks and chatter on the stem surface. The stem was in good condition with some minor pitting. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to sand out the tooth marks, chatter and oxidation. I started the polishing with 400 grit sandpaper. The stem is starting to look very good.I have been using Denicare Mouthpiece Polish as a pre-polishing agent. It is a gritty, red paste that does a great job in removing the oxidation remnants in the crease of the button and also polish out some of the lighter scratches in vulcanite. I rub it on with my finger tips and scrubb it with a cotton pad. I buff it off with another pad.I finished polishing the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping it down after each pad with a damp cotton pad to remove the dust. I polished it with Before and After Pipe Polish – both fine and extra fine. I finished by wiping the stem down with some No Oxy Oil that  received from Briarville Pipe Repair to experiment with. Once the JB Weld repair had cured I sanded the walls of the bowl to remove the excess material and to make sure the mixture was primarily in the damaged areas of the bowl walls. The repair looked very good. I mixed a batch of pipe mud composed of sour cream and charcoal powder and applied a coat of it to the bowl to protect the walls while a cake formed. I know Alex hates bowl coatings as much as I do but this one is essential given the nature of the cracks. It is just a precautionary step and the coating dries neutral and imparts no taste to the tobacco. After a few bowls you do not even know it is there. After mixing it well I applied it to the walls of the bowl with a folded pipe cleaner. I aim for a smooth coating that will dry dark and black and be almost invisible. When it dries the mixture does not have any residual taste. Once it was coated I set the pipe aside to dry. The mix does not take too long to dry. In about an hour it is dry to touch and almost black. After 24 hours it is black and smooth. The last photo below has been drying about two hours. The only remaining damp spot is in the bottom of the bowl. Once I finished I put the stem back on the shank and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish using a lightly loaded pad and a soft touch. I wanted the shine but not the grit filling in the crevices of the sandblast bowl. I gave the stem a vigorous polish being careful around the white spot. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem several coats of carnauba. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad and hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a great resurrection pipe for Alex and looks better than when I began the process. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 5/8 inches, Outer Bowl Diameter: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber Diameter: ¾ of an inch. The pipe will soon be heading back to Alex so he can continue to enjoy it. Thanks for walking with me through the restoration.

A Challenging Restoration of a Peterson’s System 3, Irish Free State Stamped Pipe


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

This pipe had been on my ‘to do list’ for long but since it came without a stem and as I did not have one, this project was kept pending since long. Now that I have received my large consignment of estate vulcanite and bone/ horn stems, including one Pete System P-lip stem, I couldn’t help but fish out the Pete stummel again to work on.

Most of my fellow pipe restorers would have turned away from this project that I had decided to work on next. To be honest, I would have led the pack in just consigning this pipe to history, but for the provenance of this Peterson’s System pipe. This pipe had once belonged to my grandfather and from the condition that it was in; it was apparently one of his favorite pipes!!

Well, the pipe that is now on my work table is in a pretty badly battered condition and came without a stem. There are ample signs of this pipe having been repaired earlier and extensively smoked thereafter. The stampings are all but worn out and can be seen under a bright light and under a magnifying glass. The left side of the shank bears the stamp “PETERSON’S” over “SYSTEM” over an encircled # 3. The pipe bears the COM stamp of “IRISH” over “FREE STATE” that is stamped perpendicular to the shank axis in two lines and very close to the shank end. The ferrule has the usual three cartouche with first having Shamrock, the second a Prone Fox and lastly a Stone Tower. Stamped above the cartouche are the letters “K & P” and is stamped below as “PETERSON’S” over “DUBLIN”. Having worked on quite a few old Peterson pipes from my inheritance and few from my Mumbai Bonanza, I was pretty sure that this pipe dates to 1920- 30 time period. To confirm this and also refresh my memory, I turned to my favorite site rebornpipes.com and to a write up “A Peterson Dating Guide; a Rule of Thumb” by Mike Leverette, here is the link (https://rebornpipes.com/2013/08/11/a-peterson-dating-guide-a-rule-of-thumb-mike-leverette/)

Here is what I have found and I reproduce it verbatim from the write up:-

The Irish Free State was formed on 15 January 1922. So the Free State Era will be from 1922 through 1937. Peterson followed with a COM stamp of “Irish Free State” in either one or two lines, either parallel or perpendicular to the shank axis and extremely close to the stem.

Thus, it is confirmed that this pipe is from the period 1922 to 1937 and this has to be one of the earliest Peterson’s pipes that was in my grandfather’s rotation and probably one that was his favorite.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The stummel is covered in dirt and grime. All that catches your eyes is the dirty darkened upper portion of the stummel something like a flume, but not quite like it!!! Closer examination confirmed my worst fears….. CRACKS!! Yes, crack with an ‘s’. There are a couple of major cracks, one to the front of the stummel in 11 o’clock direction and the second major crack is at the back of the stummel. It is from the end of this big crack that three smaller and fine lined cracks emanate creating a web of cracks at the back and extending to the sides of the stummel. These cracks appear to have been repaired at some point in the past, definitely more than 40 years back, and these repairs have been camouflaged under a blotchy coat of black stain. The exact extent of damage can be assessed only after the external surface of the stummel had been completely cleaned and under magnification. The foot of the stummel has a number of dents and dings which needs to be addressed. In spite of all the cracks and its subsequent repairs, this pipe had been in continuous use as is evidenced by the thick layer of cake in the chamber. It seems that my grandfather even took the efforts to keep the thickness of the cake to a dime, not successfully though and so unlike him!! The rim top surface is completely out of round with the cracks extending over the rim top in to the chamber. The extent of these cracks in to the chamber and damage to the walls will be ascertained only after the chamber is cleaned off the complete cake. The rim top is covered in a thick layer of lava overflow. The ghost smells are ultra-strong, I say.The mortise, shank and especially the sump are chock-a-block with old oils, tars, grime and residual flecks of tobacco. The air flow through the draught hole is laborious and will require a thorough cleaning.There being no stem with this pipe, the biggest challenge will be to find one that fits. Nonetheless, this particular pipe, though I desire to restore and preserve, I am not sure what the real condition of the stummel would be under all the dirt and grime and even if it’s worth the efforts that would be needed.

THE PROCESS
The first obvious issue that I wanted to address was to find a correct stem, preferably original P-lip stem, for the pipe. I rummaged through the parcel of estate pipe stems that had only recently reached me and I knew it contained a Pete System P-lip stem. I fished it out and tried the fit of the stem in to the mortise. Here is what I saw. Though the fit appears to be good in pictures, that is not so!! There are these following issues which are difficult to gauge from the pictures:

(a) The stem does not seat firmly into the mortise. There is a play between the tenon and the walls of the mortise; this, in spite of the rubber packing that the tenon came with. Or is this play a result of the rubber packing?

(b) The seating of the stem is too high. The tenon end does not reach anywhere near the draught hole, let alone reach slightly below it for the system to work.

(c) The stem, if pushed further in to the mortise would put additional pressure on the walls of the mortise, subsequently resulting in cracks at the shank end.

(d) The plane of the bowl and the bend of the stem are not aligned. The stem is too straight making for an awkward appearance.

With certain modifications to the stem, I feel confident that I could make the stem work efficiently in a system pipe. The saddle is deeply gouged all around. The upper and lower surface of the stem has significantly deep tooth indentations in the bite zone. The button edges are badly deformed with deep bite marks. Following pictures show the condition of the stem as I received it. The tenon is clogged with heavy accumulation of oils and tars which is seen through the tenon opening. The rubber packing cap is also covered in dirt and grime.With a sharp knife, I removed the rubber cap by separating it from the tenon end, expecting to find a chipped or badly damaged tenon. However, the tenon is intact and apart from being clogged the stem is in decent condition. After I had removed the rubber cap, I rechecked the seating of the stem in to the mortise. The seating was still loose and too high!! Next I moved ahead and reamed the chamber with a Castleford reamer head size 2 followed by size 3. With my sharp fabricated knife, I removed the cake from the chamber where the reamer head could not reach and gently scrapped away the lava overflow from the rim top surface. Thereafter, using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper, I sanded out the last traces of cake and exposed the walls of the chamber and wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove the carbon dust left behind by all the reaming and sanding process. Even though there are no heat fissures/ lines along the chamber walls where the cracks do not extend (a big solace, I say!!), the stummel cracks are a different story which I shall come to subsequently. The chamber ghosting is still significantly strong which may further reduce once I clean the sump/ reservoir and the mortise. The two major cracks (marked in red arrows) that were observed in the external stummel surface extend well in to the chamber with the old repair fills in these cracks in plain view. Further sanding and close scrutiny of the walls confirmed my gut feeling that the minor cracks originating from the major cracks will also be seen as heat fissures in the chamber walls. These have been marked in yellow arrows. As I was contemplating my further course of action to address the chamber issues, I set the stummel aside and decided to work on the stem. I cleaned the internals of the stem using hard and normal bristled pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. With a pointed dental tool, I scraped out the entire dried gunk from the tenon end.I decided that I would first undertake the cleaning, both internal and external, of the stummel before proceeding with further repairs. This cleaning will not only give me a clear picture of the extent of damage but also the efforts that would be needed are justified or otherwise.

I cleaned out the internals of the shank and mortise. Using my dental tool, fabricated knife and specifically modified tool, I scraped out all the dried oils, tars and gunk that had accumulated in the draught hole, airway and sump. The amount of crud that was scrapped out and the condition of the pipe cleaners that were used leaves no surprise why the air flow through it was restricted. I finished the cleaning by running a few pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I also wiped the sump with cotton buds and alcohol. I gave a final cleaning to the sump with a paper napkin moistened with isopropyl alcohol. This, however, did not address the issue of ghost smells in the stummel.I decided to address the issue of old odors in the chamber and shank by subjecting it to a cotton and alcohol bath. I wrapped some cotton around a folded pipe cleaner, keeping the tip of the pipe cleaner free of wrapped cotton as this would be inserted through the draught hole in to the chamber. This would form the wick for the shank. I tightly packed the chamber with cotton balls and filled it with 99% pure isopropyl alcohol using a syringe and set it aside. By next day, the cotton and alcohol had drawn out the all the old tars and oils from the chamber and max from the shank. With my dental tool, I further scrapped out the loosened gunk from the sump and mortise. I cleaned the external surface using a hard bristled toothbrush and Murphy’s Oil Soap. With a soft bristled brass wired brush, I removed the overflowing lava from the rim top surface and cleaned the internals of the shank with a shank brush and dish washing soap to remove what little crud remained in the shank. I rinsed it under running tap water and wiped the stummel dry with an absorbent soft cotton cloth. Fortunately for me, the blotchy coat of black stain that was applied to mask the repairs came off with use of Murphy’s Oil Soap and dish washing soap. Had this not worked, an alternative method of removing this coat would be to wipe the stummel with pure acetone and/or isopropyl alcohol on cotton swabs. With the stummel nice and clean, the damage is now all too apparent and it did not present an encouraging picture. The major cracks are quite deep and the secondary minor cracks emanating from the major crack are restricted at the back of the stummel. Here is what I saw. I shared these images with Steve and sought his opinion if this project was even worth the effort. A few minutes later, Steve responded in his characteristic manner. I reproduce the exact exchange that took place between us

Steve: What a mess

Me: What is the best way ahead? Worth the effort? Grandpa collection…

Steve: That was my question… is it worth it? With the Grandpa connection, I would probably work on it. I would thoroughly clean the inside and outside. Once that is done, I would line the bowl with J B Weld to completely bind the inside together. Once that is done, then fill and repair the outside with glue and briar dust.

Me: This is the condition of the shank and stummel joint…emotions dictate restoration while practical experience says it’s a gonner…

Steve: I have been there…go with emotions on this one…it will take time and be a real resurrection!!

Now that clarity has been established and hints for the way ahead have been spelt, I decided to complete this project.

I decided to address the stem issues first.

As noted earlier, the seating of the stem in to the mortise was loose and too high for the Pete’s famed system to work efficiently. I inserted a pipe cleaner in to the mortise and up to just below the draught hole, bending the pipe cleaner at this point to mark the depth that I desired. Next, I mark the same depth on to the saddle of the stem with a white correction pen. I wound a scotch tape along the marked white line extending towards the button end. This gave me a reference line beyond which sanding needs to be avoided. With this initial preparation completed, I next mount a 180 grit sanding drum on to my hand held rotary tool, set the speed at half of the full speed and proceeded to sand down the portion of the stem towards the tenon end. I frequently checked the fit of the stem in to the mortise to ensure a snug fit and avoid excessive sanding of the stem. Making steady progress, I was satisfied with the stem modifications at this stage. The tenon was just below the draught hole and there was no play in the seating of the stem in to the mortise. Next, using 150 grit sandpaper, I sanded the entire stem, especially being diligent around the saddle portion that was shaved off to achieve a snug fit of the stem into the mortise. Though I had to spend a considerable time, I was happy with the blending to a smooth transition at the edge which was sanded down. I wiped the stem with Murphy’s oil soap on a cotton swab to remove the sanding dust and oxidation. The stem looked good and should function as it is supposed to, making me very pleased with the fruits of my efforts at this stage.Just a word of caution here for all the first timers using the sanding drum and rotary tool; firstly, ensure that the rotary tool is set at 1/3 or ½ of the full rpm of the tool as too high a speed will fling the stem away from your grip and may result in excessive sanding of the stem surface. Secondly, keep the stem turning evenly at all times to achieve as evenly sanded surface as possible and avoid deep gouges. Thirdly, frequently check the progress being made and remember the mantra “LESS IS MORE”! Fine tuning is best achieved by eyeballing and working with hands and sandpapers.

Staying with the stem repairs, I mixed CA superglue and activated charcoal, filled all the deep tooth chatter and indentations and also over the button edges and set the stem aside for the fills to cure. I shall blend these fills and also sharpen the button edges once the fill has hardened considerably.Now with the stem set aside for the fills to cure, it was time for me to work the stummel. I topped the rim on a piece of 220 grit sand paper to even out the rim surface dents and dings and also to reduce the charred rim surface. The repairs to the cracks, marked with red arrows, are all too apparent now as can be seen in the following pictures. The rim top surface is charred and thin in 10 o’clock direction which have been marked in blue circle. The rim top repair towards the front of the bowl has resulted in thinning of the rim top. This is marked in a yellow circle. This stummel has some serious issues that need to be addressed. I preceded the stummel repairs first by coating the walls of the chamber with a slightly thick layer of J B Weld. J B Weld is a two-part epoxy Cold Weld in two tubes; hardener and steel which are mixed in two equal parts (ratio of 1:1) with hardening time of 5-6 minutes and complete curing time of 6-8 hours. I poured the contents of the two tubes and mixed it well. I applied this mix, as evenly as possible, over the entire chamber wall surface. I worked fast to ensure an even coat over the chamber walls before the weld could harden. I set the stummel aside for the application to harden and cure overnight. By the next afternoon, the J B Weld had cured and hardened considerably and will now be able to hold the stummel together as I move along with drilling counter holes, refreshing the fills in the cracks and further sanding and polishing processes. I gouged out the old fills from the cracks. I was careful not to apply too much pressure or dig deeper than absolutely necessary to remove the old fills. Using a magnifying glass and a white correction pen, I marked the points for the counter holes at the start, the turning and the end points along the extent of all the cracks seen on the stummel, and mark my words all Readers, there were plenty and then some more!! After I was done with my markings, the stummel appeared more like a mosaic of white dots!! Next, I drilled counter holes with a 1mm drill bit mounted on to my hand held rotary tool deep enough to serve as a counter hole while taking care that I did not drill a through and through hole. These counter holes arrest and prevent the spread of the cracks further. The importance of these counter holes cannot be underestimated. In fact, this pipe had been repaired previously and the repairs were solid enough, though without counter holes, that the pipe was smoked by my grandfather for many years. However, in my scant experience in pipe restoration I have seen that the extensive spread of the cracks towards the back of the stummel is a result of lack of drilling a counter hole to arrest the spread!!

I filled these cracks and counter holes with a mix of briar dust and CA superglue using the layering method (layer of superglue followed by sprinkling of briar dust and repeated it till desired thickness of fill was achieved) and set it aside for the fills to cure. I ensured that I filled the thin outer edge of rim top surface that I will subsequently sand down to match with the rest of the rim surface.While the stummel was set aside for curing, I decided to correct the geometry of the stem in relation to the plane of the bowl. The stem was too straight and was awkward to clench. After inserting a pipe cleaner through the stem, I heated the stem with a heat gun till the vulcanite became a little pliable. Holding the tip of the pipe cleaner, I gave the stem a bend, eyeballing it to suit the bowl. Once I had achieved the desired bend, I held it in place under cold running water till the stem had cooled down sufficiently to retain the shape. The stem was now comfortable to clench. Here are the pictures of the stem before (on the left side) and after (on the right side) the bend. Now that the seating of the stem into the mortise and the bend to the stem had been sorted out, I proceeded to sand/ blend the fills and impart a nice black glossy shine to the stem. With a flat head needle file, I sanded these fills to achieve a rough match. I further fine tuned the match by sanding the filled area with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and forefinger. I followed it up by sanding the entire stem surface using 400, 600, 800 grit sand papers and finally with a piece of 0000 grade steel wool. This serves to remove the deep seated oxidation and also reduces the sanding marks of the more abrasive sand papers. I also sharpened the button edges while sanding. I wiped the stem with a cotton swab and alcohol to remove all the oxidation and sanding dust from the surface. I applied a little Extra Virgin Olive oil over the stem and set it aside to be absorbed by the vulcanite. The stem has turned out amazing and now I felt upbeat about completing this project.I wet sand the stem with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads. Next I rubbed a small quantity of extra fine stem polish that I had got from Mark and set it aside to let the balm work its magic. After about 10 minutes, I hand buffed the stem with a microfiber cloth to a nice shine. I rubbed a small quantity of olive oil in to the stem surface to hydrate it and set it aside. The stem now had a nice deep black and glossy shine.With the stem completed, I turned my attention to the stummel. In the intervening time when I worked the stem, the stummel crack fills had hardened and cured well. Using a flat head needle file, I sanded these fills to achieve a rough match with the rest of the stummel surface. I further fine tuned the fills by sanding the entire stummel surface with folded pieces of 220, 400 and 600 grit sandpapers. The stummel was now clean and even. On close scrutiny of the cleaned stummel surface, I observed a small crack which I had missed out earlier. I will need to drill counter holes to arrest the spread and extending of these cracks. Under a magnifying glass and bright light, I marked the ends of the now observed cracks with a white correction pen. I mounted a 1mm drill bit on to my hand held rotary tool and drilled counter holes. I filled these counter holes and cracks with a mix of briar dust and superglue. I also took this opportunity to touch up and refill those areas which required further fills and set the stummel aside to cure. Once the fills had cured, I went through the complete cycle of sanding with a flat head needle file followed with 220 grits sandpaper. The fills are all solid and have naturally blended in quite nicely with the entire briar surface. The rim top surface is now evenly thick and with folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper, I created a slight bevel to inner and outer edges of the rim top. I am happy with the appearance of the stummel at this stage of restoration. I polished the stummel with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 pads. I polished the freshly topped rim surface and the newly created inner rim bevel. I wiped the surface with a soft cloth at the end of the micromesh cycle. The stummel looked amazing with a deep shine and beautiful grains popping over the stummel surface. I was surprised that the rim top surface has the same deep brown coloration as the rest of the stummel surface even though the repairs to the cracks were still sticking out like sore thumbs through the shining stummel surface, I was not overly perturbed having made peace with myself regarding the repairs showing, still I shall attempt to mask them by staining the stummel subsequently. I massaged a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” with my fingers into the briar. The immediate and incredible transformation that takes place is a worthy reward for all the efforts!! I let the balm sit on the surface to be absorbed in to the briar for about 20 minutes. The bowl now looked fresh and attractive with the grains popping out any which way you look at the briar. Even the repairs to the stummel are a lot less visible what with the briar taking up a deep dark and vibrant brown hues. I polished off the balm with a soft cloth to a lovely shine. Next, with a folded piece of 150 grit sandpaper, I sanded the coat of J B Weld from the internal walls of the chamber keeping just a thin layer of coat along the walls. The coat appeared uneven at this stage but once it was coated with pipe mud, the chamber walls would become even and smooth. I decided on giving the stummel a stain wash with a Feibing’s Dark Brown leather dye. I diluted the Feibing’s Dark Brown leather dye in 99.9% isopropyl alcohol in approximate ratio of 1:4 and with a cotton swab, I dabbed the diluted stain over the stummel surface, letting it set for a few moments and thereafter wiping it off with a dry clean cotton swab. I repeated the process till I had achieved the desired coloration. I was pleased with the color of the stummel which highlighted the grains while the stummel repairs were masked nicely. This time around, even the fills had absorbed the stain and blended in nicely with the rest of the stummel. In order to ensure that the stain wash sets in to the briar, I warmed the stummel with a heat gun while being careful that I did not overheat the crack repairs/ fills.Now on to the home stretch… To complete the restoration, I re-attached the stem with the stummel. I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to my hand held rotary tool, set the speed at about half of the full power and applied Blue Diamond compound to the entire pipe to remove all the minor scratches that remained. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. With a cotton buffing wheel earmarked for carnauba wax, I applied several coats of carnauba wax. I worked the complete pipe till the time all the wax was absorbed by the briar. The pipe now boasted of a beautiful and lustrous shine. I vigorously rubbed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine and also clean away any residual wax that had been left behind. I vigorously buffed the nickel ferrule with a jeweler’s cloth and brought it to a nice shine. I was very happy with the way this beauty had turned out. The following pictures speak of the transformation that the pipe has undergone. There was only one more issue that needed to be addressed and one that could not be ignored, being a functional issue. After I had lined the walls of the chamber with a thin coat of J. B. Weld, it was necessary to prevent the walls from coming in to direct contact with the burning tobacco. I addressed this issue by mixing activated charcoal and plain yogurt to a thicker consistency, just enough that it would spread easily and thereafter applied it evenly all along the chamber walls after inserting a folded pipe cleaner through the draught hole to keep it open. Once dry and set, this will not only protect the walls but also aid in faster buildup of cake.P.S.: This project was one with many challenging issues that needed to be addressed, the first and biggest being finding an original Peterson’s system P-lip pipe stem, ensuring a snug fit in to the mortise, modifying the stem to function as it is supposed to and finally addressing, fixing and masking all those cracks. But now that the project is completed and the pipe is definitely smoke-able and gorgeous looking, I cannot but thank Steve who goaded me in to working on this pipe in the first place and for all the input/ suggestions rendered during the process to help me preserve memories of ancestor.

I wish to thank each one for sparing their valuable time to read through this write up and sharing this journey with me while I enjoyed working on this treasured inheritance.

 

A Meer-lining and Crack Repair to Rescue a Doomed Gargantuan Kilimanjaro Made in Tanganyika Bent Billiard


Blog by Dal Stanton

My good friend in India, Paresh, commissioned 3 pipes from the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’ collection.  To have him commission pipes is a privilege after being with him and his family in India not long ago.  I will not forget the hospitality that Paresh and Abha provided to me, Steve and Jeff when we all converged in Pune.  Paresh has commissioned some pipes before and it’s no secret that he is drawn to large pipes.  One of the three he chose is perhaps the largest pipe that I’ve ever handled, and it also offers a good bit of weightiness as it rests in the hand – note, I didn’t say, “palm”.  This guy is for the hand!  I took a picture of the three he commissioned to show the comparison with normal sized pipes – with the Kilimanjaro is a French CPF Chesterfield and a BBB Classic Chimney which are next in the queue.The dimensions of the Kilimanjaro are an impressive, Length: 7 inches, Height: 2 5/8 inches, Rim width: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber width: 1 inch, Chamber depth: 2 3/16 inches.  Here are more pictures of the Kilimanjaro now on the worktable. The nomenclature is on the lower shank panel with ‘KILIMANJARO’ to the immediate left of, ‘MADE IN TANGANYIKA’.  To the fore of these stampings, almost on the heel of the stummel is the shape number of 104.

Pipedia has a good amount of information about this pipe’s provenance in the article about the Tanganyika Meerschaum Corporation:

From Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks, by José Manuel Lopes

Tanganyika Meerschaum Corporation is a company that formed in 1955 by Kenyan businessmen from Nairobi after the discovery of a meerschaum mine relatively close to the surface on Kilimanjaro. The meerschaum is tougher, less porous, and cheaper than the Turkish variety. Another mine was soon discovered in Sinya, in the famous Amboseli Game Park.

The company, previously based in Arusha (Tanzania), became an associate of a Belgium firm, but closed some years after. It produced the CavemanCountrymanKikoKillimanjaroSportsmanTownsman, and Wiga brands. It maintained a link with GBD for the making of the GBD Block Meerschaum series, and after its closure, the English firms, London Meerschaum and Manx Pipes (Manx Meerschaum) continued producing with African meerschaum.

This additional information about the better-known subsidiary, Kiko, is from Pipedia’s ‘Kiko’ article:

Kiko, meaning “pipe” in Swahili-Kiswahili to English translation, is probably the best known of the various brands listed below . In East Africa Meerschaum is found in Tanganyika, once known as German East Africa, and since 1964 part of the United Republic of Tanzania. The main deposit comes from the Amboseli basin surrounding the Lake Amboseli. Tanganyika Meerschaum is normally stained in shades of brown, black and yellow, and is considered to be inferior to Meerschaum from Turkey. Even though, the raw material is mined by the Tanganyika Meerschaum Corporation and to a large extent used for pipe making.

The same Pipedia ‘Kiko’ article referenced the specific line of ‘Kilimanjaro’ as being an old brand from Amboseli Pipes that belonged to the parent Tanganyika Meerschaum Corporation and provided a picture of a Kilimanjaro sporting the designator for that line, a rhinoceros, which the Kilimanjaro on my worktable unfortunately shows no evidence of having survived its journey.  The box that carried the Kilimanjaro in the picture is very cool!The description of the Kilimanjaro line also includes this interesting information: “East African pipewood Meerschaum lined and individually boxed. Available in black rough finish and natural smooth or rough finish.”  The finish looks like a blasted finish, but I’m not sure if it is not also rusticated – perhaps it is a ‘blasticated’ finish – a combination of both, but either way, it’s an attractive, tactile surface.  ‘Pipewood’ is the description above and I’m sure the wood is not briar. I find no ‘pipewood’ of African origin doing a quick search on the internet.  So, it’s East African ‘Pipewood’ whatever that is.

The issues facing this Kilimanjaro giant are significant.  When Paresh commissioned this pipe with a full awareness of the issues it faces, said to me that he was not only attracted to the size, but he was also looking forward to seeing what I did to rescue this giant pipe!  No pressure!  To be sure, I’m not sure that the remedies I employ will provide a long-term resolution, but I’m hopeful.  The first and fundamental issue is the vertical crack that runs for ‘miles’ along the left side of the pipewood bowl.  The first picture below shows ‘daylight’ coming through the crack at the rim level. The following pictures show the crack as it disappears into the ‘moon surface’ crags and crevasses of the pipewood finish.  To find the terminus point of the crack will require a magnifying glass.  The question that I ask myself is what caused the crack? The other major issue is the Meerschaum lining.  The trauma, whatever the source was, cracked and broke off the upper part of the Meer-lining.  The Meer breakage appears to correlate to the crack-side which would indicate that the crack and the Meer breakage go together.  The question that comes to my mind again is, what caused the crack and the breakage?  To ‘Sherlock’ the scene shows no trauma to the surrounding pipewood, which I would expect to see if the trauma were caused by a dropping of the pipe.  Inspection of the rim leaves me with the impression that it is thin for the size of the pipe.  This observation leads me to postulate that the crack was possibly caused by the expansion of the wood as the Meerschaum heated, but how much does Meerschaum expand as it heats?  If so, even microscopically, this would suggest that the expansion could have contributed to the pressure on the encasing pipewood contributing to the crack.  But what explains the breakage of the Meer?  The vertical crack is set almost center between the widest break points of the Meerschaum. This question prompted me to write Steve with the question regarding how a Meer-lining was installed.  Was the Meer-lining a result of compacted or pressed Meerschaum that was formed to the chamber or was it a cut piece of Meerschaum that was inserted as a separate piece?  Steve’s response was that Meer-linings generally were cut in a lathe and drilled and inserted to fit the chamber.  This information was helpful because it would indicate then that the Meer-lining remaining in this Kilimanjaro was essentially one piece, and barring any large hidden cracks in the surviving Meer, should be structurally intact.  I’ll need to clean the surviving Meerschaum lining to make sure that the rest is intact and then begin the repair from the outside working in.  With this initial assessment of the serious issues standing in the way, I begin the clean-up by running pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% through the stem and then into a soak with Before & After Deoxidizer along with other pipes in the queue. After several hours in the soak, I extract the Kilimanjaro’s stem and run pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% to clear the Deoxidizer from the airway.  I then wipe the stem down with cotton pads wetted with alcohol to remove the raised oxidation.  I missed taking pictures of this part, but the aftermath shows residual oxidation in the stem after the Before & After Deoxidizer soak.I follow by scrubbing the stem with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to see if it would deep clean the oxidation.  There is some additional improvement but, in the end, I’ll need to sand the stem to remove more oxidation.At this point, I apply paraffin oil to the stem to hydrate and condition it.  I open the aperture on the iPhone App and take another picture showing the deep oxidation that can still be detected.  I put the stem aside for the time to look again at the stummel.Before beginning on the stummel repair, I need to clean the Meerschaum lining to be able to get a closer look at its condition.  I see something obstructing the draft hole.  After unsuccessfully trying to push a pipe cleaner through the draft hole via the mortise, I take a dental probe and am able to pop it out.  It appears to be an old hunk of dottle that had hardened. I take additional pictures of the chamber walls moving up to the rim where the Meerschaum breakage is.  The floor of the chamber is clear of carbon buildup.  This is the moment of truth for this pipe – to remove the carbon to examine the condition of the Meerschaum.  If it has more substantial cracks underneath it could raise questions about the integrity of the remaining Meer and the wisdom of a repair, but we will see. Patience is the key as I gingerly scrape the carbon layer off the remaining Meer surface.  I use the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to do the scraping. I don’t work on it like I would a briar chamber.  This scraping is more akin to rubbing with the edge to dislodge the buildup.After the scraping, I use 240 grade sanding paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to reach down into the huge chamber to continue to clean.When I’ve sanded sufficiently, I give the chamber a wipe with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to remove left over carbon dust.With the carbon layer cleared and the Meer surface exposed, I find an almost perfectly uniform hairline crack, which almost looks like a seam, halfway down the chamber running in a full circle around the circumference of the chamber.  It is so uniform that it looks like the Meerschaum was constructed in halves – a lower half bowl and the upper half ring. I also detect another hairline originating at the uniform crack running downwardly and then curving as it nears the floor.  The good news, if there’s good news to be had, is that these are tight hairline cracks, there’s no crumbling. The Meerschaum below the rim seems to be solid.  To the touch, the hairlines are imperceptible.  With a sharp dental probe, I was able to detect a slight bump as I drew the point across the hairlines.  I’ve already decided what I will do.  I’ve been waiting some time for this Meer-lined repair to come to the top of the queue.  I want to give this Kilimanjaro a shot at continuing to serve.  I worked on a previous Meer-lining repair of a Zulu (see: An Italian Croc-skin Zulu and a Bear of a Meer-Lining Repair) where I discovered an old timers’ approach to addressing Meerschaum problems.  In the Zulu repair, Steve told me about Troy’s approach on Baccy Pipes.  Troy’s method of using chalk and egg whites to repair Meer surfaces worked with the Zulu and I had this in mind from the beginning looking at the Kilimanjaro’s issues.  Steve had reposted Troy’s blog on the methodology, and I had saved it as a keeper in my resource bucket.  Steve’s repost can be found here: Old Time Meer Lining Repair Method On a Kaywoodie Shellcraft #5651 | Baccy Pipes which will then take you over to Troy’s site.  Troy’s mixture of egg white and chalk is an amazing Meer-looking and feeling composite which holds up very well.  Troy’s approach of patient, layering of the mixture fills and reinforces the existing Meerschaum.  I’m looking forward to seeing what it will do again, but first, I must address the daunting ‘pipewood’ crack running down the side of the bowl.  This is critical to reestablish a solid ‘frame’ around the Meerschaum.  I take a few fresh pictures of this ‘Grand Crack Canyon’ which runs down and disappears in the lower craggy regions – everything about this pipe is BIG!  You can see ‘day-light’ at the upper, rim-part of the crack. I don’t know with certainty the reason for the crack and the Meer breakage, but my best guess is that it was heating expansion.  If this is correct, the good news is that the bowl has expanded causing the crack.  Theoretically, this should be good news for the repair of the crack, filling it at this expanded point will provide a better framework for the Meerschaum and overall stability of the pipe – theoretically.  Even though the crack and the Meerschaum repairs are large undertakings, the current condition of the Kilimanjaro Giant makes it unusable, and so there’s absolutely nothing to lose for this big guy.  He’s already in the ICU!  If after the repairs are completed, and if Paresh decides he doesn’t want him, he can convalesce in my racks for as long as he wishes 😊.

I decide to do this repair before cleaning the stummel in the normal order of things, but I didn’t want to dampen the pipewood in the crack or mess with the Meerschaum butting up to the crack. The first order of business is to identify and mark the lower termination point of the crack.  This is critical to keep the crack from growing through the southern pole of the bowl.  Taking a magnifying glass, I follow the crack until I find the endpoint and I use a sharp dental probe to mark that spot.  This helps me to find it again as well as to help guide the 1mm drill bit when I drill a counter-creep hole. I take a very close-up picture of the inverted stummel to show the difficulty of tracing the crack as it becomes less distinct and blends into the moon-scape cragginess.  I mark the crack and circle what appears to be the end of the crack.Again, I recheck with the magnifying glass and then mark the point with the sharp dental probe.  I then mount the 1mm drill bit onto the Dremel and with nerves of steel, drill a hole freehand!  It’s amazing how shaky the hand gets when you’re trying to do precision drilling.  I intentionally make the counter-creep hole a little bigger than usual to make sure the crack is arrested.  I have no worries about blending in the rough blasted surface. Before applying thin CA glue, I use a Sharpie Pen to darken the hole I just drilled.  This will help blending after I apply the clear CA glue.Next, I use the thinnest CA glue in my inventory with a precision nozzle on it. I use thin CA glue to maximize the seepage of glue deeply into the crack.  I don’t want the glue congealing on the surface but curing deeply in the pipewood crack to reinforce the strength.  After waiting a while, I apply another line of CA down the crack.  I also apply CA to the inside of the rim where the crack is exposed above the Meerschaum. While I apply additional coats of CA glue to the stummel crack repair and the CA glue cures, I switch focus to the stem.  Even after soaking in the Before & After Deoxidizer, the oxidation in the stem is significant as the pictures show.  On the first picture, the saddle has a round section where the vulcanite appears burnt or something – like a wart almost.  I move directly to sanding the entire stem with 240 grade paper to remove the oxidation.To guard against shouldering the saddle stem’s shank facing I employ a disc that I fashioned to keep the sanding in check. After the first round of sanding with 240 grade paper I follow by wet sanding using 600 grade paper.  On the dark surface it’s easier to take pictures that show the oxidation holding on.  The second picture shows a close-up of the ‘wart’ after sanding.  It shows pitting and even after sanding, the area appears rough and clouded. I return to sanding with 240 grade paper on the areas that continue to show oxidation and then finally move on to wet sanding with 600 grade paper and then apply 000 steel wool.  I also use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to clean further.  The stem is much improved even though the ‘wart’ is still visible. I then apply Before & After Fine and Extra Fine Polish to further clean and condition the vulcanite stem.  In succession I apply the polishes with my fingers and rub them in.  Between each coat, I allow some time – about 10 minutes, for the polish to absorb.  I then wipe the stem clean using paper towels and then buff some with a microfiber cloth and put the stem aside.After applying several applications of thin CA glue to the stummel crack, the crack is filled, and the glue cured.  To blend the ‘glue line’ I take a cotton bud and dip it in acetone and rub it over the glue line.  This removes much of the excess CA glue on the surface running along the crack line while not bothering the glue in the crack itself.  Doing this helps blend the crack in the craggy stummel surface.  I’m pleased with this crack repair and where I used acetone to clean, the hue of the pipewood is somewhat lightened.  I’ll address this later. With the stummel crack now stabilized, and before working on the Meerschaum lining patch project, I continue with the normal cleaning regimen.  I would rather finish with a clean pipe and not have to clean it at the end!   The stummel surface is dirty and grimy.  Now that the crack is repaired, I’m looking at the stummel surface and I see hints of oxblood coloring. Using undiluted Murphy, I scrub the blasted surface with a bristled toothbrush.  I scrub well getting into the crags of the blasting. After cleaning the external surface, I go to work on the internals.  Using pipe cleaners – bristled and soft and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95%, I work on the mortise.  I also employ shank brushes and a small dental scoop to help clean.  I’m not able to reach far into the mortise with the dental tool because the threaded mortise narrows.  I discover that the mortise threading is cut into the wood.  I thought at first that it would be metal like the threaded tenon, but the threads are hewn out of the mortise.  I’m careful not to wear them down through the cleaning.  After some time and effort, the pipe cleaners start emerging lighter and I move on.I’m getting ready to head to the Black Sea for a few days on the beach with my wife for some R&R from our work here in Sofia. Before putting the stummel aside, I apply paraffin oil to the pipewood to help rehydrate the blasted or perhaps, blasticated pipewood.  It looks good and gives me a sneak peak of what the bowl will look like in the later stages of the restoration – I like what I see!The time was wonderful, the beach was superb and I’m thankful for the time of R&R with my lovely bride.  We enjoy the Black Sea immensely and find the slower pace rejuvenating to the soul.  I took along with me the newest addition to my collection that I purchased in a trip to Istanbul a few weeks ago. I love this carved block Altinay Meerschaum sculpted Billiard with the burgundy acrylic silver banded stem.  I looked at 100s of carved Meerschaums at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, but this was the pipe that called my name and chose me 😊.  I guess I’m a ‘classic shape’ pipe man at heart.While on the beach, I thought a lot about how to approach the next step in this gargantuan Meer-lined Kilimanjaro.  The method I will be using to repair the Meerschaum I discovered from Troy (of Baccy Pipes) who posted this methodology on his website: Old Time Meer Lining Repair Method on a 1930s Kaywoodie Shellcraft #5651  described in his blog how he came upon this strategy as he approached repairing his first Meer lining:

I had read and heard from other pipe restores that an old late 19th-early 20th century druggist recipe for fixing broken meerschaum was egg whites and finely ground chalk, so that was what I was going to try and fix the meerlined rim with. It is said to have about the same porous properties of meerschaum and imparts no taste to the tobacco. 

Troy also affirms in the comments section on his blog that the mixture of egg white and chalk is ‘neutral’ and presents no difference in aftertaste compared to native Meerschaum.  I used this methodology with great success in the restoration An Italian Croc Skin Zulu and a Bear of a Meer Lining Repair.  This Zulu came out well.  I want to state for the record: the Meerschaum is NOT being repaired but emulated.  The process reinforces and strengthens the faults of the Meerschaum as well as masking the problems.  When I did the Zulu repair, I was taken to task by a commenter that it wasn’t a Meer repair…. True indeed.  But the alternative in this case will be that the pipe is never used again.  The method is without doubt a patch to the existing native Meerschaum, but with no better alternative, I’m willing to go with it.

To begin, I take a picture looking at the rim-top and the upper condition of the Meer.  I use a piece of 240 grade paper and lightly sand the top side of the Meerschaum to clean it and to show better the imperfections.  I also do a quick sanding over the internal pipewood that is exposed. I follow Troy’s lead in masking the stummel to protect it from the chalk/egg white mixture because it sets up very hard – not something I want on the Kilimanjaro’s blasted surface! With the Zulu repair I found some chalk from a Kindergarten teacher (of course) who is a fellow team member here in Bulgaria.  I used the old-fashioned way of pulverizing the chalk as finely as I could with the mortar and pestle to do the job.  After putting a pipe cleaner in the airway and through the draft hole to keep it free of ‘Ole Timer’ mixture, I apply an initial thin coating of the mixture using my finger to fill in the cracks in the fire chamber and over the broken area at the rim – filling the gaps and cracks is important at the beginning.  Later after this first, thin coat sets, I will build up the lining toward the rim so that it will cover the cracks as well as provide a uniform surface as I build out the rim breakage. For the first application, I mix 1 egg white to about 3 tablespoons of chalk to create the initial mixture to get into and fill the cracks for the first two applications. I save the remaining mixture and put it in the fridge and put the stummel aside for several hours for the ‘Ole Timer’ mixture to set.  The key to Troy’s approach, I believe, is the patient layering of the mixture allowing it to set and build, layer by layer – not putting the mixture on too thick which I believe would be more prone to trapping air pockets and cracking.  The pictures show the process. After a few more hours, the first picture shows the state of the Ole Timer mix.  With my finger, I again add a coat of the mixture to the chamber and let it set for several hours for it to set up, dry and harden more. After several hours, the layering is taking hold.I add another tablespoon of chalk to the current thin mixture to thicken it some.  Again, using my finger, I add another coat to the chamber, rim and over the breakage area.  This time I let the application cure overnight. The next morning, I take another picture to show the progress. I add one additional coating of the Ole Timer mixture to the entire chamber at the current thickness.  Again, I let it set for a few hours for it to dry and harden.  With the stummel on the side again, I turn to the stem and apply the full regimen of nine micromesh pads.  I begin by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of three pads, I apply a coat of Obsidian Oil to continue rejuvenating the vulcanite stem.  It looks good! Now it’s time to work directly on the main Meerschaum breakage on the rim.  I’ve built the layering over the exposed area with the previous coats of the Ole Timer mix of chalk and egg whites.  I separate a smaller portion of the remaining mixture in a container and again add more powdered chalk to thicken it a bit more.  When it seems about the right viscosity to stand more firmly in the break cavity, I apply the mixture to the rim.  I keep the stummel on its side, with the breakage on the bottom to use gravity to settle the mixture in the break cavity.   I first take a before picture then an after. I don’t want to ‘over’ fill but allow more time to apply an additional coat of the thicker mixture.  I again put the stummel aside for several hours for the thicker mixture to dry and harden.  Again, I put all the Ole Timer mix back into the fridge to use again. Suffice it to say, I did several more coatings using the Old Timer mixture to build up the rim – I’m passing on more pictures of this process!  My goal was to build out the chamber wall to the rim and to fill out the rim, including the breakage gap, so that the chamber is a uniform cylinder.  From this reestablished uniform platform, I will then sand back to the original Meerschaum wall and reshape the rim to hopefully mask the breakage and produce an attractive rim presentation of darker pipewood meeting the new reinforced and repaired lining.  That “meeting” to me is what makes Meer-lined pipes attractive – the contrasting themes of color and texture.  The picture is the final after curing through the night to fully dry and harden. I start sanding the top of the stummel by removing the excess Old Timer mix to bring it down to the masking tape level.  I do this patiently to have a gradual approach to the rim surface. At this point, I’m careful to guard the internal repair to make sure I leave room for shaping the repaired rim.  Fine tuning comes later.  To be sure, working with this material is not tidy!  The dried mixture is extremely strong and durable, but it makes for a very dusty work space especially in the sanding phase.The masking tape is now showing through letting me know I’m down to the ‘show me the money’ area of the rim.  It shows me how much depth exists in the repaired lining and it shows me if I’m possibly too thin.  I’m wondering this when I look at the exact bottom of the picture – which represents the right-most edge of the Meer breakage.  The edge of the fill dips in there.  I decide to move on and see how things shape up.I transition to sanding from the bottom of the chamber working up toward the rim.  I wrap a piece of 240 grade paper around a Sharpie pen for reach.  My aim is to clean out the floor of the chamber and sand a smooth transition from the Meer floor moving upward toward the Old Timer material surface.Well, it was going so well until it wasn’t.  One of the things that I learned when I first started restoring pipes is that learning from what doesn’t work is as valuable as what does.  As I sand, I see the cracks emerge in the Old Timer surface.  When I first see that a major problem was in progress, two things come to my mind – this Kilimanjaro has perhaps transitioned from a commission benefitting the Daughters of Bulgaria (sorry Paresh!) to a personal project.  The second was to continue sanding to see what remained intact. When the cracked sections started forming, I also use a sharp dental probe to aid the controlled destruction.As the following pictures show, the surprising part is that the current problems with the Ole Timer surface isn’t with the area of the major Meer breakage gap, but along the rim where the Meer has deteriorated and there was little for the Ole Timer mixture to grip. When there isn’t anything to lose but time, I decide to proceed to see what can be done.  My wife actually proposed the present path when I showed her the meltdown and explained that it was the thin deteriorating Meer at the top of the rim that the Ole Timer mix was not able to adhere.  Her suggestion was to top the stummel to mine down to a healthier and more solid foundation for the rim.  This sounded like a good option to me and perhaps would have been the better path at the beginning to clean out the deteriorated area more.  Of course, there is no telling how the rest of the rim, Meer and Ole Timer surface will like this idea. To prepare for the topping adventure, I remove the masking tape from the top of the stummel.Using 240 grade paper on the chopping board, I very gently begin the topping process.  At first I’m not sure what will result. After a few rotations, I check the progress and the remaining Ole Timer mixture appears to be solid.  This emboldens me and I continue to rotate the stummel several more rotations.Very interestingly, I the grain of the pipewood emerges during the topping.  After several rotations, the emerging wood is not smooth like briar, but a naturally ‘rusticated looking’ presentation appears as the pictures below show very clearly.  I continue to top the stummel and the pictures following show the gradually change in the appearance of the rim as the sanding does its work. The mysterious ‘pipewood’ continues to dog me.  What is pipewood anyway?  I did a bit of snooping in my research bucket and remembered that Charles Lemon had worked on a Kilimanjaro (see: Resurrecting a Giant Kilimanjaro War Club Billiard) and he had raised the same question about the type of wood he was working on – definitely not briar.  In the comments section of that blog we went back and forth about the wood and Johan came up with the mysterious ‘Pipewood’ designation in Pipedia’s article which I referenced above.  Charles didn’t resolve what ‘pipewood’ actually was either.  I decided to ask my wife what she made of this ‘East African Pipewood’.  She’s pretty amazing with plants and is a horticulturalist hobbiest in her own right. She looked at the grain I had uncovered on the rim and with little thought observed that that it looked like bamboo.  With her curiosity piqued, she did a bit of online research and sent me a link with a picture (see LINK) labeled, ‘bamboo end grain flooring’.  The cheetah-like spotting is very much like the Kilimanjaro’s rim.  Then, a little later, as if to produce exhibit “2”, my wife handed me one of our throw-away bamboo chopsticks we get from our favorite Bulgarian Chinese home delivery restaurant.  I managed to take a closely focused picture again to show the uniformed ‘tubular’ grain structure of a bamboo specimen.  The case for East African Pipewood being some strain of bamboo is looking pretty strong.  As Charles remarked in his blog noted above, whatever the wood is, it would not be good to use in direct contact with fire, like with briar, but would of necessity need to be paired with a Meershaum lining to work.  Thanks to my gifted wife, I think I have a better handle on what pipewood actually is.  What I’m seeing on the rim is a cross-section cut of this wood.  The LONG crack down the side of the stummel makes more sense with the straightness of it – this wood it structured in long, straight grains.  It would not, therefore, have a lot of resistance to an expansion from heating… it would seem!  Curiosity satisfied, I move on.At this point I’ve come to a place where more topping will not help.  The deteriorated and crumbling part or the rim and Meerschaum has been removed and solid Meer has emerged.  I circle the one place that the Meer shows a residual chip.  To remove this area would require more ‘Pipewood’ to be sacrificed than I’m willing to give. This next pictures shows clearly the depth of the Meer chip and how much of the top would need to be removed to erase the chip – not an option.  As I look at the integrity of the remaining Old Timer faux Meer material, it appears to be strong but aesthetically, not very pretty!  At this point, strength wins over pretty!  With nothing to lose, I will again apply more coats of the Ole Timer mixture to fill this area and hopefully to solidify a stronger foundation.I give the area a quick cleaning with a cotton bud dipped in alcohol.Again, I apply the mixture of egg white and chalk – applying several coats over a few days gradually to build up the area arriving at the point to start sanding again.  I’m amazed that as often as I’ve gone back to my original mixture of egg white and chalk, it has only taken one egg white and it has done quite well being refrigerated after each application.I come to the point of sanding once more. The gradual building of the Ole Timer mix looks good.  I use 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to provide the firm backing to the sanding.  I want the chamber straight and I don’t want to inadvertently bevel off the internal edge at the rim. I then take the stummel back to the topping board using 240 grade paper.  This does a good job cleaning the rim surface again exposing the unique cheetah-like grain pattern of the pipewood. I follow the 240 grade paper by rotating the stummel a few more times on 600 grade paper.After the topping, I use pieces of 240 then 600 grade papers to further smooth the chamber walls – blending the edges of the differing layers of the Old Timer material.  Smoothing the rim more also seems to harden the material more – making both the native Meerschaum lining and the Ole Timer more durable.  I also give the inner rim edge a subtle rounding which protects the edge from chipping.  Looking closely at where the native Meer and Ole Timer Faux Meer meet, I see a few gaps that the Ole Timer mixture did not close.  These are marked with the arrows.One more time I bring out the chalk and egg white mixture and after mixing it, I apply more on the rim with my finger to close the gaps and then let it set for a few hours to harden.Again, I sand… …and declare that the Meerschaum chamber repair is complete!  I’m pleased with the what I’m seeing – as I said before, it ain’t pretty, but this pipe has a chance for another lifetime and that makes this long, methodical process worth the trouble.  Altogether, I’ve been working on this Meer-lining repair about a week or so.  The true test for both the stummel’s crack repair and the Meerschaum, and how well the Old Timer Faux Meer holds up, will come after the chamber is put into service.  The physics of the heat – expansion and contraction – will show no favorites and we’ll see what the result will be!Anxious to see the stem and stummel reunited, I peel away the masking tape and clean the exposed stummel with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol.  Not bad!I look closely at the crack repair (formerly the Grand Crack Canyon) and it is solid, but I notice again that the crack line itself and the pipewood in the immediate area running along the crack has lightened a wee bit.  It’s not surprising after using acetone to clean away the excess CA glue from the crack repair.  The picture shows this well.To remedy this, I use an Italian made dye stick labeled, Noce Medio (Medium Night) that does a great job blending the area with the stummel.The surface looks great and I enhance this by applying a goodly portion of Before & After Restoration Balm to bring out the depth of the dark, burgundy speckled, blasted surface.  After rubbing the Balm into the craggy surface with my fingers, I set the stummel aside for about 20 minutes allowing the Balm to do its thing.And I like what it did!  After 20 minutes I use a cotton cloth to wipe the excess Balm and then I follow by hand buffing with a microfiber cloth.After reattaching the stem, I mount the Dremel with a cotton cloth buffing wheel and set the speed at 40% full power.  I then apply Blue Diamond compound to the stem.  I also apply the compound to the rim surface as well as the smooth surface on the underside of the shank holding the nomenclature.After applying the compound, I mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel maintaining the same speed and apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the stem and as well a light application to the stummel.  The craggy stummel surface will get gummed up if I apply too much wax, but a small amount spreads nicely with the Dremel action and brings out the luster of the dark hues of the pipewood.  I finish the restoration by giving the pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth.

This restoration was a labor of love – this gargantuan pipe wanted another opportunity to serve and I hope my repairs have given him a fighting chance!  As I said earlier, the proof of this pudding will be in the heating and cooling of the stummel.  The Old Timer Faux Meerschaum is a durable material after it sets up and hardens.  The key will be if the Ole Timer material bonds and moves with the native Meerschaum during the heating and cooling.  We’ll see!  My good friend in India, Paresh, commissioned this giant Kilimanjaro to benefit the work we do here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  I’m going to propose to Paresh that if he would like, I can send the Kilimanjaro to him to put it into service for a few months to see how the repairs fair then settle up 😊.  If not, I’ll keep the Kilimanjaro in my own collection and see how he does!  Thanks for joining me!  It’s not pretty!  ThePipeSteward

 

Recommissioning an Italian La Strada Scenario Canadian 130


Blog by Dal Stanton

Pipes come to me in many ways – pipe picking in bazaars, second-hand shops and antique shops.  The eBay auction block is another way I procure pipes to restore to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria, our work here in Bulgaria helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Another gratifying way pipes have come to me are from people who hear about the Daughters and want to help.  They donate pipes from their own collections or pipes that were passed on from loved ones.  In 2017, my wife and I were in Butler, PA, speaking at a church that has financially and prayerfully supported the work we do in Bulgaria for many years.  We were invited to visit the home of Dan and Jane Hartzler, who we’ve known for many years.  We had a great time visiting and Dan said he wanted to give me something.  He brought out 4 very well-used pipes in a rack and offered them to me to use to benefit our work with the Daughters.  The pipes came from his now deceased father, Rex, who was an Ohioan all his life from his birth in 1922 till his final day in July of 2011.  When I receive pipes in this way I always try to find out about their former steward – it adds depth of story and meaning when I restore pipes that are passed on.Dan shared with me about his father during that visit and in subsequent emails after we departed Butler. It’s not possible to capture an entire lifetime in the brevity of this write-up, but I found very interesting was that Rex had a yearning for adventure in his early years.  When he started college in 1940, he also took flying lessons and subsequently joined the Navy pilot program during WWII.  This choice in his life as a young man brought him into an interesting role during WWII.  He piloted blimps flying protective duty over the Panama Canal – a critical naval east/west artery to connect the Atlantic and Pacific naval operations.  This description from BlueJacket.com is interesting and adds insight to Rex’s duties as a ‘lighter than air’ pilot.  The primary role of the blimp was directed toward anti-submarine warfare.  The toll on merchant marine fleets were heavy during the beginning years of the Atlantic theater supporting the Allied war effort in Europe.  The ‘Lighter Than Air’ units played a key role in turning the tide of these major naval losses.  To guard shipping using the Panama Canal, blimps were stationed on both the Pacific and Atlantic sides to ward off submarine attacks on shipping.  Dan told me that is father never piloted again after the end of the war and settled into married life in 1946 and raised a family in Ohio.

Dan looked for a picture of his father smoking his pipe that I could add but couldn’t find one.  One reason for this was probably the fact that Dan’s mother didn’t like pipe smoke in the house, so Rex would normally load up the bowl with his favorite blend and go outside where he walked among the trees – and by looking at some of the pipes that Dan gave me, we concluded that he probably knocked on the trees or on other hard surfaces to clear the ashes!  I’m thankful for Dan’s contribution of his dad’s pipes to benefit the Daughters.  I brought them back to Bulgaria and placed them in the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’ collection online and this is where Jim found the Canadian he wanted to commission.  Jim came to my Dreamers inventory with Canadians on his mind.  After looking at different offerings he came down to Rex’s La Strada, which I was very pleased to commission and now, begin restoring this well-used La Strada Scenario from Rex to a new steward.

Jim added one more request for the La Strada Canadian when I began work on it.  He sent this short note with a link:

dal,
noticed this as an improvement for many pipes. would it do well for the pipe you’re working on for me?  https://pipedia.org/wiki/Airflow:_The_Key_to_Smoking_Pleasure

 jim

The title of the Pipedia article piqued my interest and it introduced me to debate regarding “opening” the airway in a pipe to improve the physics of airflow.  The author of the article, Ken Campbell, originally posted it to The Pipe Collector, the official newsletter of The National Association of Pipe Collectors (NASPC), I believe in 2011 where he makes a compelling argument.  Ken Campbell sited those who did not agree with his assessments, but what I found interesting was the science behind the proposition that increasing the diameter of the airway, if done correctly, according to the author. can enhance the enjoyment, reduce gurgles, difficulties in keeping the bowl lit, etc.  A step closer to pipe smoker’s nirvana!  The science is interesting, and whether it’s correct or not, I’m not sure, but it’s compelling.  I’m repeating this paragraph from Campbell’s, ‘The Key to Smoking Pleasure’ in toto including the pipe artisans he sites to make his case:

My first clue came from an article I read in Pipes & Tobacco in the Winter/1996/97 edition, early in 1997. The article was entitled “Nature’s Designs” by Dayton H. Matlick and was about Lars Ivarsson, his pipe making and some of his philosophy and knowledge about smoking. I quote Messrs. Matlick and Ivarsson from this article: “Unrestricted airflow through the entire channel is essential for an easy-smoking pipe….’Once you pick the shape and size of pipe you like, test the airflow,’ says Lars Ivarsson. ‘Draw in through the empty pipe at normal smoking force. There should be no sound or, at most, a deep, hollow sound. This means the airflow is not restricted, an essential element of a good-smoking pipe. If you have any whistling sounds,… meaning restricted airflow, you will probably have trouble keeping it lit and it will probably smoke wet. According to Lars, ‘You’re getting turbulence in the airstream when you exceed a certain speed. The sound of that turbulence indicates that the smoke will get separated. Smoke is actually microdrops of moisture containing hot air and aroma. When air passes quickly through a restricted passageway, turbulence moves the heavy particles, including the moisture, to the perimeter, like separating cream from milk. This can be caused by too small a diameter or sharp corners in the smoke passage [which is] an extremely important issue….[T]he physics of the boring of your pipe will definitely have an impact on the taste of the pipe and your smoking pleasure. For all of his pipes, Lars uses a four millimeter [Ed. about 5/32nd of an inch] channel from one end of the pipe to the other. This may vary with the pipe maker, but the sound test will still hold true.”

The article is interesting, and I’m always interested in trying new things to expand my restoration repertoire, so I responded to Jim saying that I would give it a try, but because I had not done this before, I would need to research it more to make sure I get it right.  So, opening the airway of this La Strada Scenario Canadian is what I need to investigate and look for longer drill bits to add to my collection.

These were the pictures of Rex’s Canadian posted in ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’ that got Jim’s attention.

‘La Strada’ simply means, ‘The Street’ in Italian.  The information gleaned from Pipedia and Pipephil.eu (See LINK) point to the La Strada name being primarily an Italian pipe production made for export, especially to the US.  Pipedia also added this bit of information: La Strada was an Italian export brand. Its large formats had some success in the USA, and were included in the 1970 Tinder Box catalog.  Steve restored a very nice looking La Strada Staccato found on rebornpipes (See LINK) where he posted this page from Tinderbox showing La Strada Offerings.  The Scenario shown on this page is a Bent Stem Sitter.  Interestingly, the Staccato example is the Canadian shape that I have on the worktable. As I was looking at the Staccato line, I recalled that I have a nice quarter bent Billiard La Strada Staccato in the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’ collection available for commissioning!  The ‘strapped’ sculpting and matte finish is the Staccato hallmark which I like.Looking at the La Strada Scenario Canadian now on the worktable, it is evident that it was put in service a good bit and the thick, uneven cake in the chamber shows this.  The lava over the rim is also thick revealing the signs of Rex’s stummel thumping practice as he would flip the Canadian over in his hand and thump it on a nearby tree to dislodge the ashes.  I take a few pictures below focusing in this area.  The rim’s fore section is nicked and chipped from this.  The second picture is looking at the back side of the bowl and the darkened area over the rim which was most likely how Rex lit his pipe.  Both pictures reveal the grime covering the stummel in need of cleaning.  The short stem of the Canadian reveals deep oxidation in the vulcanite and bite compressions on the upper- and lower-bit areas.With the initial assessment of the pipe’s condition completed, I begin the restoration by adding the stem to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer to begin addressing the deep oxidation in the stem.  I don’t believe that the soak will fully remove the oxidation, but this is a start in the right direction.  The first picture below shows the La Strada on the far right after the communal activity of cleaning the airways before putting the stems into the soak.  Using pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%, I ream out the oils collected in the airways.  I not only am cleaning the airway but sparing the B & A Deoxidizer bath from undo contamination!  The stuff is expensive, and I want it to stretch as long as possible!  After cleaning the airway, I place the La Strada’s stem in the bath for several hours. After some hours, I fish the stem out of the bath and drain the excess Deoxidizer back into the bath.  I then use a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to wipe the stem down removing the raised oxidation resulting from the soak.  I also clear out the airway of fluid and clean it again with pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95%.  As expected, my naked eye still detects the dark green evidence of residual oxidation in the stem – the pictures do not pick it up.  For now, to start the stem revitalization, I coat the surface with paraffin oil (a mineral oil) and put the stem aside to absorb the oil and dry. Now, looking to the Canadian stummel, I take a close-up of the chamber area showing the thick carbon cake. To address this, I start by reaming the chamber with the Pipnet Reaming Kit starting with the smallest of the 4 blade heads available.  After putting down paper towel to help in cleaning, I go to work.  Reaming the chamber not only cleans and gives the chamber a fresh start, but it allows me to see the briar underneath the cake to identify any potential burning issues with the chamber. I use 3 blade heads to ream the chamber then I shift to using the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to further scrape the chamber wall and to reach down to the floor of the chamber. After this, I sand the chamber using 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen to give me reach and leverage as I sand.  Sanding removes the final carbon cake hold outs and helps smooth the chamber surface.  The second picture shows the full arsenal of tools used to address the chamber reaming. After I wipe the carbon dust with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean, I give the chamber an inspection.  About 2/3s down into the chamber there are evidences of some heat cracking which I don’t believe are serious enough to address with more than providing a new protective layer on the chamber wall.  I’ll do this later with a coating of either pipe mud or using a mixture made from activated charcoal and yogurt (or sour cream).  I take two pictures, the first with an open aperture to see more clearly the cracking.  Below the cracking, a small reaming ‘shelf’ has developed from too much forced pressure from the reaming tool.  I’ll work on smoothing that out with sanding aiming for a uniformed chamber contour. Next, to address the grime and oils on the Canadian bowl and long shank and to work on the lava flow on the rim, I first take a few pictures going ‘around the horn’ showing the starting condition. Next, I start by using undiluted Murphy’s Soap with a cotton pad and scrub the surface.  I also use a Winchester pocketknife to carefully scrape caking on the rim.  A brass wire brush also helps in this effort on the rim which helps clean but does not add to the rim erosion.  I start with the scrubbing using the Murphy’s Soap and work through scrubbing the smooth surface and scraping and brushing with the brass wire brush the rim area.I do an initial rinsing of the soap in the sink, and then immediately dive into cleaning the internals using pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in alcohol as well as the full range of long shank brushes reaching through the long Canadian airway.  I also excavate much oil grime and tars from the mortise and reaching into the airway using a dental spatula.  I then take the stummel to the sink, and using warm water, I rinse the stummel again and use dish soap and warm water with the shank brushes to continue cleaning the airway.  This picture shows the conclusion of the carnage!After completing the cleaning, I inspect the external surface and am glad to find no large fills or holes revealed after the cleaning.  I like the potential of this briar to come out well.  But I do detect one more problem to add to the list. Looking closely at the distinctive vertical grain pattern running upward from the heel just to the right of the shank, I detect a crack.  At first, I think that it may simply be a ‘gap’ between the grain lines, but the more I look at it, I believe it’s a crack that needs to be addressed or it will possibly grow along the grain line. I decide to address this problem straight away.  I first mark the terminus points on each side of the crack.  Using a sharp dental probe tool, I press an indentation at each of these points.  I need a magnifying glass to correctly identify the ends of the cracks.  I press these indentations at the end points for two reasons.  First, I can better see where I need to drill counter-creep holes with the Dremel, but also the probe holes create a guide hole or a starter to guide the Dremel’s drill bit which I’m applying freehand!  The first two pictures are of the lower guide hole and then the next two, the upper guide hole. Next, I mount a 1mm drill bit in the Dremel and with a steadier hand than usual, I drill both counter-creep holes freehand. The guide holes help a good bit.  The picture shows the holes drilled at each end.  Not bad!I use a thin CA glue to run along the crack to shore it up as well as in the counter-creep holes.  I use thin CA glue to encourage seepage into the crack to provide a better seizing of the crack.  I then sprinkle briar dust over the holes and the crack to encourage blending.Not long after, the crack patch has set up enough for me to continue my work on the stummel.  I turn my attention to the battered rim.  There is no question that it will be visiting the topping board.  I take another closeup of the fore section of the rim to show its raw, battered condition.  The second picture shows the deterioration of the front side progressed to the point it appears to be sloped forward.  The normal disposition of the plane of the rim on the Canadian will be close to parallel to the shank.  I’ll need to remove some of the rim to bring proper orientation back to the rim. I cover the chopping board with 240 grade paper, and I start rotating the inverted stummel over the paper.  I intentionally lean to the rear to help move the rim line toward level.  The next pictures show the progression of topping. At this point I’m satisfied with the progression.  The rim has evened out and even though there are residual chips on the front side of the rim, I believe the small ones can be dispatched with a slight beveling.  The larger ones remaining will need more attention.I switch to 600 grade paper on the chopping board and give the stummel a few more rotations to smooth the surface more.The smaller skinned-up area on the right should disappear with some gentle bevel sanding.  I’ll first apply some briar dust putty to the larger remaining chips on the left, and then sand these areas out.  One larger chip remains on the aft of the rim which will also receive a fill of briar dust putty.  It should work well.I use a plastic disc to serve as my mixing pallet and I also put down some strips of scotch tape to help with the cleanup.  I mix some briar dust with regular CA glue.  I first put a small mound of briar dust on the pallet and then add a small puddle of CA glue next to it.  I gradually draw the briar dust into the CA glue until it thickens enough to trowel to the chipped areas using a toothpick.  The pictures show the progress. With the patches on the rim curing, I turn to the La Strada Scenario’s short Canadian stem.  When the stem came out of the Before & After Deoxidizer soak, I noted that I could still detect deep oxidation.  I need to address this, but first I will work on the tooth compression on the bit.  They aren’t severe.  First, I use a Bic lighter and paint the bit with the flame to heat the vulcanite.  When heated, the physics of the rubber expands with the heating and hopefully will lessen the severity of the compressions.  This works well, but I still need to sand.  I sand using 240 grade paper to work on the remaining tooth compressions and the residual oxidation.  I use a plastic disk I fabricated to sand against to avoid shouldering the stem facing.  I also use a flat needle file to sharpen the button definition.I widen the aperture on this picture to show the continued residual oxidation near the disk – more sanding needed.After using the file and 240 grade paper, I wet sand the stem using 600 grade paper then follow using 0000 steel wool. I like the progress.I’m on a roll with the stem.  Next, I wet sand using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400.  I follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  After each set of 3 pads, I apply a coat of Obsidian Oil to further rejuvenate the vulcanite stem.  I love the newly polished vulcanite pop! The briar dust patches filling out the chips on the rim are fully cured.  Using a flat needle file, I first work to file the excess patch material on the topside of the rim.  I file the excess briar dust patch down until close to the rim surface. When each of the three main patches are filed down vertically, I switch to filing the sides of each patch down close to the briar surface. I then take the stummel back to the topping board and light turn a few revolutions on 240 grade paper and then 600 grade.  This brings the patches down flush with the rim.Using 240 grade paper again, I create a soft bevel on the external rim lip.  This both shapes the patches and cleans up the smaller nicks on the circumference of the rim’s edge. I also do the same on the internal edge of the rim.Finally, I go over both the external and internal bevels with 600 grade paper to smooth and blend.  I like what I see!  This phase of the rim repair is complete.Next, I address the crack repair patch.  Again, I use a flat needle file to file the excess material down to the briar surface then follow with 240 and 600 grade papers. While I have the sandpaper handy, the front of the bowl has some skins and pits.  I quickly dispatch these using 240 and 600 grade papers. I follow the rough sanding by utilizing sanding sponges before the micromesh regimen.  I use a coarse, medium, and then light grade sanding sponge and sand the entire surface.  I’m careful around the nomenclature on the shank.  I like using the sanding sponges to clean the surface of minor imperfections, but they are not invasive.Turning now to the micromesh pad regimen, I wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400.  I follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. Wow!  I’m liking the way this grain is coming out. I’ve come to a juncture and decision point.  The grain has come out beautifully and I like the rich honey brown tone of the briar.  Yet, the patches on the rim and for the crack repair stand out and to me, distracting.  The pictures below show this and for this reason, I decide to apply a darker hue to mask the repair work. The patches will not disappear totally, but the contrast will be minimized.  I like using Fiebing’s Dark Brown for this purpose.  As an aniline – alcohol-based dye, I can lighten it by wiping the stained surface with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol. After I assemble all the components for staining on my worktable, I warm the stummel using a hot air gun to expand the briar which enhances the reception of the dye pigment.  After the stummel is warm, I use a folded over pipe cleaner to apply the dye.  I apply the dye in swatches and then flame the aniline dye with a lit candle.  The alcohol combusts and sets the pigment in the grain.  After I methodically apply dye and flame the entire stummel, I repeat the process again assuring thorough coverage.  I set the stummel aside to rest through the night to allow the new dye to settle in.  And for me, I turn out the lights and call it a day. The next morning, the flamed stummel has had enough time to rest the new dye.  To ‘unwrap’ the stummel removing the crust, I mount a felt buffing wheel on to the Dremel, set it at the slowest possible speed and begin the methodical process of both removing the crust as well as polishing the briar with Tripoli compound. I stop to take a picture during the process to show the emerging briar grain after the staining process.  It’s amazing as I uncover the briar.  I’m pleased with the hue that I’m seeing. Not pictured above is that I changed the felt wheel to a cotton cloth buffing wheel, increased the speed of the Dremel to about 40% full power and when over the entire surface again with Tripoli compound.  Unlike with the felt wheel, with the cotton wheel I can reach into the crook of the shank and bowl to apply compound removing the crust.  I also fine tune the polishing using the cloth wheel – it brings out and sharpens the grain a step more.

Below, after completing the use of Tripoli compound, I wet a cotton pad with alcohol and I very lightly wipe the stummel.  This helps to blend the newly applied stain as well as lighten the finish a bit.Next, I rejoin the stem and stummel (after I took this picture!) and mount another cotton cloth wheel to the Dremel, maintaining the same 40% power setting and I apply Blue Diamond compound to both stem and stummel.  After completing this, I wipe the pipe down with a felt cloth to remove the compound dust before applying wax.Before applying wax, to provide the chamber with a starter layer to encourage the develop of a protective cake, I mix Bulgarian natural yogurt and activated charcoal to form a mixture which I apply to the chamber walls.  After I stick a pipe cleaner through the stem and the draft hole, to guard the airway from being blocked, I mix the yogurt and charcoal dust to a point where the mixture does not drip off the pipe nail tool as I hold a dollop of the mixture in the air.  I then apply and spread the mixture over the chamber evenly and fully.  Satisfied with the progress, I then put the mixture aside for it to set-up after a few hours.