Tag Archives: repairing an out of round bowl

Getting Rid of a Foul Smell in a third pipe – a Malaga Pot

Blog by Steve Laug

I have a box of some 25 pipes that I am working through for a friend here in Vancouver. The next group of four pipes that I am working on came to me in a sour, stinky condition. Alex had smoked them and found that as he smoked them each one became fouler. From my experience this happens when a pipe has not been thoroughly cleaned in the process of restoration. Sometimes even if it has been cleaned, the first few smokes draw out a foul taste and in this case an odor that made me put the four pipes in a zip lock bad to keep the odor contained. They really stunk! On Sunday evening I decided to give the foursome a cotton ball and alcohol treatment to draw out the oils and tars in the briar. I pushed cotton balls into the bowl and a folded pipe cleaner in the shank and used an ear syringe to fill the bowl with isopropyl alcohol. I set the pipes aside to let the alcohol do its work overnight. I know many of you use kosher salt and alcohol and that certainly is your choice. For me however the cotton balls work just as effectively in providing a medium for the foul juices drawn out of a pipe to be deposited. They are also easier to clean up and they do not leave residual salts in the briar. In the morning I took a photo of the finished work. You can see the effectiveness of the treatment.I took the cotton out of the bowls of the pipes and wiped the bowl down with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs to dry them out. The pipe I decided to work on is the beautifully grained straight pot, the third pipe from the right in the photo above. It is stamped on the left side of the shank “MALAGA” and on the right side of the shank is stamped Imported Briar. Alex has grown to love Malaga pipes and continues to pick them up on eBay and other places on his journey. It was another pipe that the seller said was clean but after several smokes Alex deemed it unsmokable. It was now up to me to figure out what was going on. I examined the pipe when I took out the cotton balls and alcohol and I learned a few things about it that would need to be addressed. The rim top and inner and outer edges of the rim were in rough condition. It looked like the pipe had been used for a hammer. The finish was spotty with nicks and marks. The bowl had some cake inside and it too would need to be reamed out. The stem was the best of the lot. It was clean and was free of tooth marks or chatter. I wondered what the airway was like but that is an easy clean up. I took some photos of the pipe at this point. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to capture the damage to the rim top and light cake in the bowl. The rim top was in bad condition with nicks and cuts. The inner and outer edges were rough. The bowl was out of round. It needed some more work to clean it up but at least the cotton ball alcohol treatment had rid the pipe of the rank smell. The stem was in the best condition of the four pipes. It did not have tooth chatter or marks and was not oxidized.I took a photo to capture the stamping on the right and left side of the shank. The first photo shows “MALAGA” on the left side of the shank. The second photo shows the stamping on the right side it reads Imported Briar. The stamping on this pipe is readable.Now that the stink was gone I did not even think of cleaning the shank and airway I just immediately went to the most irritating part of this pipe – the beat up rim top and edges. I topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damage to the rimtop and to try to minimize the damage to the inner and outer edges. The rim top looked significantly better as can be seen in the second photo below. I cleaned up the outer edge with some sandpaper and wiped it down. I filled in the deep nicks in the edge with briar dust and super glue.I sanded the edge repairs with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the briar. I would polish out the scratches later but for now the edge was at least smooth. Once the outer edge was cleaned up I worked on the inner edge. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and smoothed out the edge. I gave the edge a slight bevel to take care of the rim damage and darkening that was present.I polished the rim top and the rest of the bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I used the wet sanding on the first three pads to give me the traction to remove the scratches in the briar and the dry sanding to polish the briar. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. At this point in the process the finish looked very uneven to me – even spotty. I decided to wipe down the bowl and shank with isopropyl alcohol to remove the uneven finish. I was able to even out the look of the finish to a point where I was happy with the look.  I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the bowl and shank with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The bowl and the rim top look really good and the damage is gone. I am very happy with the results. It was at this point that I realized that I had not reamed the bowl or done any cleaning of the internals after the cotton ball and alcohol treatment. I had been so intent on cleaning up the damaged rim that I totally skipped my normal pattern of work. So I went back to ream the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I sanded the inside of the bowl with a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper to remove all remnants of the cake. When I was finished the bowl walls were smooth and clean.I cleaned out the airway in the shank and stem with cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. I cleaned out the mortise in the shank with cotton swabs and alcohol until the mortise walls were clean and looked bare. I stopped and checked out the smell of the pipe and it was clean and fresh smelling.The stem on this Malaga was flawless. There were no tooth marks and no chatter. The stem absolutely glow it was so clean so there was nothing to be done with it. I wiped it down with some Obsidian Oil to protect and deepen the shine but otherwise it was perfect.

I put the stem back on the bowl and polished the pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The grain came alive with the buffing. The rich brown finish on the briar works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. The finished pipe is a beauty and feels great in the hand. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 9/16 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. This one will be going back to Alex with the other two previously foul pipes that I worked on. Thanks for walking through the restoration on this now great looking “Malaga”. It is really a beauty. I think Alex should get a better smoke from it now.

Custom Made Billiard Back into Service

The next pipe in the lot that I refurbished was the top pipe in the centre column in the photo below. It was a Custom Bilt like billiard. It is stamped on the left side of the shank Custom Made and on the right side of the shank Imported Briar. That stamping tells me that it is an American Made Pipe. I cannot find any information on the stamping on the internet but will continue to look and see what I can find.


Custombilt The pipe was dirty. The bowl was badly caked – meaning that the cake was very crumbly and uneven. The bowl was out of round as can be seen in the photo below. I would need to ream it out completely to reshape the bowl. The finish was dirty in all of the worm trail carving that is found in these old rustic pipes. It looks a lot like a Mincer Custombilt but I am not sure. The rim surface is tarry with build up and the front inner edge of the bowl is burned. The shank looks good in these photos but there is a divot out of the briar on the left side where it will meet the stem. It did not have a stem when I picked it up on Ebay. I will need to make some decisions about what to do with the new stem and the match at the shank.

I went through my box of stems to find one that would fit the shank with little adjustment. I had just the stem there. The fit would be great as it was the same diameter as the shank. The stem was oxidized and dirty inside but there were no tooth marks. There was also a calcification on the stem near the button that would have to be dealt with when I got the stem fit to the shank. The next five photos show the “new” stem. I had to hand sand the tenon to get it to fit snugly in the mortise. The third photo below shows the sanded tenon. I used emery paper to sand the tenon back until it fit in the shank. The fourth and fifth pictures show the fit of the stem to the shank. The divot is visible in the fourth photo. It is mid shank on the left side of the pipe. No amount of fitting the stem would make that disappear. I could sand down the shank at that point to make a cleaner fit but I was not sure that is what I wanted to do. To do the sanding would change the chunky appearance of the pipe. So I decided not to sand the shank. I went on and cleaned the inside of the pipe before I made the final decision on the shank.






While I was prepping to ream the bowl I took out a nickel band to see what it would look like on the shank. I liked the overall look. I left it on the shank while I reamed the bowl. I used a PipNet reamer – a T handle with various cutting heads to ream the bowl. I started with the one that fit the easiest and then worked up to the third head which was the same diameter as the bowl. I reamed it back to bare wood (Photos 1 and 2). I then heated the band with the heat gun and pressed on the shank to give me a smooth transition between the stem and the shank (Photos 3 and 4).





I worked on the inner rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I sanded the top of the bowl with the same sandpaper and the fine grit sanding sponge to remove the build up on the rim (Photos 1 and 2). The third photo below shows the inner edge of the rim after the sanding with the 220 grit sandpaper. I was able to get the bowl close to round. I also used the sanding drum on the Dremel to even things out so the third photo shows the finished repair to the inner rim edge.




I wiped the exterior of the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads. I wanted to clean out the buildup in the crevices of the trails on the bowl. The dirt and finish that came off is visible in the two photos below. Two obvious fills also showed up in the bowl. These would need to be taken care of to hide them under the new stain once I was finished.



With the finish removed it was time to clean out the shank and airway of the pipe. I used pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and also the drill bit from the KleenReem Pipe reamer to remove the tars and oils that had built up in the shank. I probably could have used a retort but the shank did not smell sour or rank. It smelled like Virginia tobaccos had been smoked in this so I just used a lot of pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in Everclear until they came out spotless. I wiped down the tenon on the “new” stem as well with the Everclear.



Once the insides were clean I inserted the stem in the shank to see if I still had a snug fit. Sometimes when the grime is removed the fit is not as good as it was before cleaning. I have learned the hard way to leave the stem tight and when it is cleaned the fit will be perfect. I sanded the stem with fine grit emery paper to remove the calcified buildup and the oxidation on the stem. The next three photos show the stem after the sanding with the emery paper.




I then sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove more of the oxidation and also the scratches left behind by the emery paper. The next series of three photos show the stem after sanding with the sandpaper.




I went back and cleaned the stem with pipe cleaners and Everclear. I should have done that when I was cleaning the shank but honestly I forgot to do so. Never too late however so I did it next. The next four photos show the pile of pipe cleaners that it took to clean the stem. I also wiped the bowl and shank down with Everclear on a cotton pad to prepare it for staining.





I restained the pipe with a dark brown aniline stain. I thinned the stain with 1 part alcohol to 2 parts stain to get the brown I wanted for a colour. I wanted it dark enough that the fills would blend into the finish but also transparent enough to show the grain through the stain. I used a black permanent marker, called a Sharpie here in Canada to give the fills a dark top coat before applying the stain. I have learned that this method makes the fills blend into the bowl better on these rusticated bowls. I applied the stain with a cotton swab, flamed it with my lighter and reapplied it and flamed it again. It took three applications of the stain to give good coverage to the bowl. The next three photos show the unstained pipe (Photo 1) and the newly stained pipe (Photos 2 and 3).




Once the stain was dry I hand buffed it with a shoe brush to see if I needed to add any more stain to some of the spots on the bowl and rim (Photo 1). The next three photos show the buffed bowl and the finished colour. The coverage was good so I buffed it by hand and then went back to work on the stem.





The next series of six photos show the progressive polishing of the stem with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit.







I took the pipe to the buffer and buffed the stem with White Diamond and then rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil to preserve it. I gave the bowl a coat of Halcyon II wax and the stem several coats of carnauba wax to prevent oxidation. I buffed the entire pipe lightly with a soft flannel buff. The finished pipe is pictured in the last four photos.





Finding a Hidden Gem Underneath all the Grit and Grime

I went to work on the third pipe down in the far right column. It was one that I almost bypassed because of the shape it was in, but decided to take a chance and see what was underneath all of the mess. The stamping was long ago worn away by buffing. It had originally had a ferrule on the shank and that was missing. The bowl was badly caked and it was out of round from overzealous reaming. The finish was shot with thick black grime impregnated into the bowl finish all the way around. Underneath there appeared to be some nice grain. The missing ferrule left behind remnants of the glue that had held it in place. In the shank where the ferrule was missing were several fills – the only ones in the pipe. The size of the pipe is about a group 2 – kind of the classic size of an older billiard. The stem was missing so it would need to have one made to fit.



The next series of photos shows the build up on the outside of the bowl. Not only was it badly caked it also was covered with a grey/black grime that would be challenging.






I used acetone and cotton pads to remove the external grime on the bowl (Photos 1 – 2 below). There was actually some nice grain underneath all the grime. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer starting with the smallest cutting head and working my way up to the largest that would fit the bowl. I wanted to ream it back to bare wood so that I could work on the damaged inner rim (Photo 3 below). I topped the bowl to remove the damage to the top of the rim and clean up the outer edges of the rim. I used my normal method of a piece of sandpaper on a flat surface and pushing the bowl into the sandpaper and rotating it to remove the damaged briar (Photo 4 – 5). I also push a nickel band onto the shank part way. I would later need to heat it to get a pressure fit deep on the shank. This band would both strengthen the thin walls of the mortise at the end and also cover the only fills present on the pipe.






I used a Dremel with a sanding drum to work on the roundness of the bowl. I worked to even out the distance between the inner edge of the rim and the outer edge. Once this was completed I used sandpaper to smooth out the edge and give it a slight bevel (Photo 1). I wiped down the bowl and rim with acetone on a cotton pad to clean off the last of the dust and grime from the reaming and sanding (Photos 2 – 3).




I set up the heat gun and turned it to the high setting. I held the band over the heat and rotated it to evenly heat the entire band (Photo 1). Once it was heated (just a few minutes) I then took it to the work table and pressed the band in place on a metal plate I use for setting the bands. Sometimes this takes several trips between the heat and the plate but this time one trip was all it took and the band was set (Photos 2 – 3).




I used a PIMO tenon turning tool to turn the tenon to fit the mortise. I generally turn it until it is close and then finish the fit by hand with sandpaper (Photo 1). After sanding the stem fit quite well in terms of the tenon. It was snug and flush against the shank – no light showing through (Photos 2 -3). I used the Dremel with a sanding drum to remove the excess vulcanite on the stem and to shape it to match the diameter of the shank. I sand carefully with the sanding drum to bring it as close as possible to the size I want. You have to be careful and steady so that you do not nick the shank or the band while doing this. The finishing fit is done by hand with files and sandpaper (Photos 4 – 5).






The next series of seven photos show the shaping process. I begin with a medium grit emery paper and sand out the scratches left behind by the Dremel. I shape the stem with this paper to the point where the flow and fit of the stem is what I am looking for (Photos 1 – 2). I then move on to 220 grit sandpaper and continue to remove the scratches and shape the stem (Photos 3 – 4). It then finish this shaping with a fine grit sanding sponge and polish out more of the scratches. Each grit of paper brings the stem closer to the finished shape (Photos 5 – 7).








I apologize for the graininess of the next two photos but they show the bowl after I had stained it. I used a dark brown aniline stain thinned with one part alcohol. I wanted a rich reddish brown colour on this old timer so I thinned the stain to match the colour I wanted. I applied it to the bowl and rim, flamed it, reapplied it and flamed it again.




I worked on the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I also sanded the nickel band to bring out a polish to it as well. The next series of seven photos shows the progressive shine that comes to the stem with each successive grit of micromesh from 1500-12,000 grit. I wet sanded with the 1500-2400 grit and then dry sanded with the remaining grits.








I sanded the bowl with the higher grits of micromesh and then buffed the pipe with White Diamond to give the entirety a rich shine. I applied several coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a soft flannel buff. The stain really highlights some of the beautiful grain on this pipe. I am glad I took the risk to bring this one back to life.





A Barlings Make Saddle Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

I enjoy working on Barlings pipes. They are generally carved from great pieces of briar and clean up nicely. They are light weight pipes with one of the most comfortable bits ever made IMHO. I had picked up this little Barlings Make 1364 Billiard. I have no idea on this one’s age as I have not bothered to look it up yet. It is stamped Barlings in an arch over Make inside the arch and then 1364 below that. The other side is stamped with an L. It has the Barlings thin bit saddle stem bearing the Barlings cross on the top and nothing on the underside.

This one came with an over reamed bowl leaving the bowl walls thin and the bowl out of round. The left side was considerably thicker than the other sides. We are not talking a huge difference but visually it was off. The thin sides are probably a 1/8 inch thick and the left side was about a 1/4 inch thick. I carefully rounded the bowl with a knife to bring the 1/4 inch side into sync with the remainder of the bowl. The result is a much more balanced look to the bowl. Then I sanded the bowl carefully so as not to affect the finish on the top of the bowl and then buffed and polished the whole pipe. I am happy with the results and with some careful smoking this one should be able to build a good cake and last a long time.


In terms of the stem I wanted to preserve the Barling cross stamped on the top and the profile. It was not in too bad shape as can be seen from the photos though it was oxidized. The oxidation I worked on by soaking it in Oxyclean to soften it. I find that though it does not remove the oxidation it makes it easier to deal with. I then carefully sanded the stem with micromesh pads. I worked with the 1500 grit pad to sand around the cross and not lose it. I also worked over the surface of the entire stem with the 1500 grit. Then I worked through the rest of the pads from 1500 to 6000 to give the pipe stem a polish. The only thing left to do was to give the pipe a good buff with White Diamond and carnauba wax to finish it up.