Blog by Steve Laug
Not too long ago I received an email from an online friend and contributor to rebornpipes, Joe. He had picked up a great estate that he was cleaning and selling for the family. He sent me a list of the pipes. I purchased a nice Bari Freehand pipe from the lot. We came to an agreement on the price and I paid him for it. In the email interaction he talked about one of the Ascorti Business pipes that he was cleaning. He wrote:
…Now, I have a question. When cleaning one of the Ascorti Business, I found two cracks in the stummel. I know you have fixed cracks before. I’m attaching photos. Is it repairable and how much would it cost?
I looked at the photos that he attached which I have included to the left of this paragraph for you to see. The next paragraph of the email he came up with an interesting possibility.
Second thought. If I ship it with the Bari, would you be interested in fixing it and selling it?… (He went on to make a business proposition regarding the sale of the pipe.)
We struck a deal and the Bari I purchased and the Ascorti were in the mail to my brother Jeff’s place so he could work his magic on the pipe.
When the pipe arrived Jeff showed me the pipe while we were on Facetime. He showed the entirety of the pipe and also the shank end. It looked to both of us that there were actually three cracks in the shank. The stem was very loose fitting because the cracks had opened the mortise enough that it would not snugly hold the stem in place. The rusticated finish was quite dirty and the rim top had an overflow of lava on the smooth crown. The bowl was caked and between that and the lava I was not sure what to expect of the inner edge of the bowl underneath the grime. Time would tell. Jeff took some photos of the pipe to show the general condition of the pipe before he started his clean up. He took some photos of the rim top and bowl from various angles to give me a clear picture of the condition of the rim top and bowl. You can see the cake in the bowl and the thickness of the lava coat. It also looks like these is some damage on the inner edge and bevel in the photos. Jeff took some photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to show the condition of the rusticated finish on the pipe. Under the oils and grime it was a nice looking bowl. I think it was well worth the effort to repair the shank as there was a lot of life left in this old timer. He took some photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank. On the left side is the Ascorti logo with a pipe forming a “t” in the brand name. On the left side of the saddle stem was the Ascorti slanted A stamp. On the right side it was stamped Hand Made over Italy. You can also see part of the crack on the left of the third photo. Jeff took several photos of the cracks in the shank. Interestingly they both are on or alongside of the smooth panels on the sides of the shank.The next two photos show the top and underside of the stem. It is good condition with tooth chatter and some light tooth marks. It should clean up nicely.Before I started my part of the repair and restoration I wanted to have a clear picture of what the stem logo looked like on the Ascorti Business pipe. I turned to Pipephil as he often has some photos that give me the information that I am looking for (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-a8.html). Sure enough he had a photo showing the rough stamped A on the stem. It is white and it is rough which is exactly how this one looks. Hopefully in the restoration process I can get it back a bit. I did a screen capture of the picture on the site and include it below.Jeff once again did an amazing job cleaning the pipe. He reamed it with a PipNet pipe reamer and got rid of the cake so that we could see the walls of the bowl and assess for damage. He cleaned the internals of the shank and stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners and alcohol. He scrubbed the exterior with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed the pipe under warm water. He dried it off with a cloth and then let it air dry. The rim top cleaned up pretty well and there was indeed some damage to the crowned top and inner edge of the bowl. I took pictures of the pipe to show how it looked when I unpacked it. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the damage to the rim. You can see the damage on the back crowned rim top and on the inner edge on both the front and the back. There is some roughness and marks on the surface of the rim top as well.I took photos of the cracks in the shank sides and also of the shank end. I have circled the three cracks in red on the last photo of the shank end.I opened the cracks with a dental pick and pressed CA glue into the cracked areas. I clamped them together until the CA cured. I went through a bag or brass bands that I picked up through a friend online. I had one that was a perfect fit and when pressed onto the shank would fully bind the glue. I heated the band with a lighter and pressed it onto the shank. I put the stem in place and it was snug! The repair had cured the cracks and the loose fitting stem. I took a photo of the pipe with the band and the stem in place to have a look. I took the stem off and set it aside so that I could work on the crowned rim and inner edge damage. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the inner edge and the top of the crowned rim. It was slow and tedious but the results were what I was hoping for. I polished the smooth panels on the sides of the shank and the rim top with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the rim down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad to remove the sanding debris. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the smooth portions with my finger tips and the rustication with a horsehair shoe brush. The product is a great addition to the restoration work. It enlivens, enriches and protects the briar while giving it a deep glow. It is a product I use on every pipe I work on. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded out the tooth chatter and marks in the acrylic with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and polished out the scratches with 440 grit wet dry sandpaper.I polished the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish from a tin of it I have in the drawer here. It is a gritty red paste that I rub on with my finger tips and work into the surface of the stem and button and buff off with a cotton pad. It gives me a bit of a head start on the polishing work.I used some Paper Mate Liquid Paper to repair the white in the A stamp on the left side of the shank. Once it dried I used a 2400 grit micromesh sanding pad to remove the excess. While not flawless it definitely looks better.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I buffed the stem with a soft cloth to raise the shine. Looking forward to hearing what Joe thinks of the restoration on this Ascorti Business pipe that he sent to me. As always I am excited to finish a pipe that I am working on. I put the pipe back together and buffed it using a light touch with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad and hand buffed it to raise the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with the grain popping through on the rim top and the variations of colour in the rustication around the bowl and shank. Added to that the polished black acrylic stem with the briar band on the saddle was beautiful. The new brass band sets off the bowl and stem really well and I am pleased with the classy look it gives to the pipe. The shank repair and band take care of the cracked shank and it should work well for a long time. This is nice looking pipe and I am sure that the tactile nature of the rustication will feel great as the bowl warms up during smoking. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. It is a beautiful pipe and one that will be on the rebornpipes store soon. If you are interested in adding it to your collection let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. I want to keep reminding us of the fact that we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next pipeman or woman.