Tag Archives: repairing tooth marks

Finishing the Restoration and Restemming a Custom-Bilt Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I was speaking with Paresh and Abha on Facetime and they showed me a second pipe that they wanted me to finish for them. This one was a Custom-Bilt billiard that had come to him from the estate of his Grandfather. It had a threaded tenon stem and a shank that had no threads. I have never seen a Custom-Bilt with a threaded mortise and tenon so it was a fair assumption that the stem was not original. It had been wrapped with glue and tape to make it fit in the shank and the fit was awful. Paresh wanted me to fit a new stem on the pipe for him. Abha had done a magnificent job cleaning the pipe so it was really a simple restoration for me – just fit a stem and finish the bowl. The briar was clean and lifeless so it would need some attention to breathe life into it again. He wanted me to pick up where he had left off and finish the pipe for him. The pipe was stamped on the left side of the shank Custom-Bilt and on the underside it was stamped Imported Briar. It would be interesting to see what I could do with it. When the pipe arrived this is what it looked like. You can see the remnants of wrapping and glue on the metal threaded tenon. There were tooth marks in the surface of the vulcanite stem on both the top and underside near the button. The first photo below shows the rim top and the inside of the bowl. Both were very clean and the rustication was in great condition as were the inner and outer edges of the bowl. The second photo shows the end of the shank with the glue on the inside of the mortise and the lack of threads that would be present if the tenon that was on the stem would work with this pipe.I took some photos of the stamping on the left and underside of the shank. The left side reads Custom-Bilt and the underside reads Imported Briar.I took close up photos of the stem. You can see the metal tenon on the end of the stem. There is some oxidation and there are the tooth marks on the stem top and underside.I wanted to refresh my memory on the history of the brand. I knew that his one was one of Tracy Mincer’s pipes because of the hyphenated name stamp. I looked on Pipedia and read Richard Esserman’s write up on Bill Unger’s Book. He gives a great summary of the history there. I quote a section of it below. (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Custom-Bilt(Rich Esserman))Tracy Mincer started the original Custom-Bilt pipes it appears in 1934. Bill meticulously details the start of the Company, how it was financed, the changes in the original ownership, how the company distributed its product, the manufacturing process, certain patented items, and other interesting stuff.

Mentioned briefly in this chapter was the fact that Custom-Bilt was producing big, carved pipes using Algerian briar for production up to WW II. One important employee, Hetzer Hartsock, stated: I can tell you something about that rough texture that Custom-Bilt had. One reason rough textured was used was not only for looks but it could hide flaws in the briar. [The process gave] A very uncontrolled cut. Then he [Tracy] would buff it out. [page 25]

Custom-Bilt pipes retailed between $5.00 and $15.00 in the 1940s. According to an ad, standard Dunhill pipes were selling for $12.00 and $13.50, Parker pipes $7.50, GBD for $6.00 and Comoy’s $7.50. Not mentioned was that special Dunhills could retail up to $100 and certain Comoy’s up to $25.

In 1946, the name was changed to Custombilt after Mincer began an association with Eugene J. Rich, Inc. There were some big changes in advertising and distribution. The slogan “AS INDIVIDUAL AS A THUMBPRINT” began at this time as well.

In the early 1950’s, Tracy Mincer developed severe financial problems that caused him to stop making the Custombilt, and he lost the name. In 1953, Leonard Rodgers bought the company and emphasized tobacco pouches and butane lighters. (However, it appears Mincer was working on his new pipe, the Doodler.) In 1968, Rodgers sold the Company to Consolidated Cigars. In the early 1970s, Wally Frank Co. bought the Custombilt trademark and began to produce their version of the pipe in 1974 or 1975. Hollco Rohr owned the Weber pipe factory, located in New Jersey, and produced the Custombilt pipes there. In 1987, the pipes were made out of the Butz-Choquin factory (France) and then Mexico until the late 1990s. Currently, the Custombilt name is owned by Tobacalera of Spain.

I set the bowl aside and decided to work on the stem. The diameter of the stem was perfect for the pipe so I needed to remove the metal threaded tenon and replace it with a Delrin tenon. I heated and scraped away all of the glue and tape on the threads of the tenon and those that bound it to the stem. I held it tight with vise grip pliers and turned the stem. It would not come out no matter how I turned or pulled on it. I decided I would have to use more drastic measures. Using the vise grip pliers as a vise I set up my cordless drill to drill out the tenon. I started with a bit slightly larger than the airway in the tenon and drilled it. I was hoping it would catch and pull the tenon out. First bit was a failure. I worked my way up to a bit slightly smaller than the diameter of the tenon and worked on it. The extended portion of the tenon broke off and I was left with the piece in the stem. I drilled it out with a bit and the bit grabbed the piece and it all came out.Once the metal was removed from the stem I cleaned out the hole in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the debris. I smoothed out the threads to leave grooves in the tenon insert. Once I had it smoothed out enough I tried it in the stem. The fit was perfect. I cut deeper grooves in the tenon with a file and coated it with black super glue. I pressed it into the stem and lined it up so the fit was straight.  I set it aside to let the glue cure. While the glue cured I worked on the bowl. I scraped the glue out of the inside of the mortise using a pen knife. The glue had hardened so it took repeated scraping to get rid of it and bring the mortise back to bare wood.When the glue cured I tried the fit of the stem in the mortise. The stem fit well on the shank. I put it in place on the shank and took photos of the pipe at this point in the process. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar with my fingertips and into the rustication patterns with a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The grain is really starting to stand out. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil to remove the sanding dust on the vulcanite. I wiped it down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. 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 natural oil finish works well when polished to really highlight the variety of grains around the bowl and shank. The polished black vulcanite stem works together with the beautiful grain and worm trail rustication in the briar to give the pipe a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. I will be sending the pipe back with the others that belong to Paresh. I have one pipe left to finish for him. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this well-made Tracy Mincer Custom-Bilt. 

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Finishing up a Stanwell de Luxe Regd No. 969-48 Shape 482 for Paresh


Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I was speaking with Paresh and Abha on Facetime and they showed me a Stanwell de Luxe 482 that they had been working on. It was cleaned and ready for restoration. Paresh had filled in the multitude of nicks and dents in the briar with super glue and briar dust. He was not happy with the freckled appearance of the briar once he had finished his repairs. The super glue was very runny and had gone all over the bowl leaving darkened patches where ever it ran all around the bowl. Kind of a mess. There were also some fine pin hole nicks in the shank that were around the stamping. He wanted me to pick up where he had left off and finish the pipe for him. The pipe was stamped on the left side of the shank Stanwell over Regd. No. 969-48 over de Luxe. ON the right side it was stamped Fine Briar over the shape number 482. Working on this pipe was truly not a bad deal for me as it was completely cleaned up by Abha and the stem was cleaned and partially finished as well. It would be interesting to see what I could do with it. When the pipe arrived this is what it looked like. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the bowl from various angles to show the freckled appearance that Paresh was speaking about. I carefully wiped the bowl down with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the excess glue that had run and also the stain that remains in the briar without damaging the repairs. The repair spots begin to show clearly. There are still spots on the shank that need to be dealt with. I sanded the surface of the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repairs and remove the marks from the runny glue. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a damp cloth. I also used the tip of a dental pick to fill in the many tiny sandpits in the sides of the shank. Once the glue cured I sanded them smooth with the tip of a sanding stick and folded sandpaper. Once the fills were blended into the surface of the shank I polish the shank portion again with the micromesh sanding pads. I stained the bowl with Fiebing’s Tan Aniline stain. The stain is a brownish red colour and should help to hide the many repairs to the bowl.Once the stain had dried to touch I wiped the bowl down with a cotton pad and alcohol. I wanted the stain to be transparent and allow the grain to shine through but still be opaque enough to hide the repairs that both Paresh and I had done. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The grain is really starting to stand out. There were still some grooves near the button that needed to be dealt with before I would be happy with the stem. I sanded the grooves out with 220 grit sandpaper until they were smooth.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. 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 rich reds of the tan stain work well to blend in the majority of the fills in the briar. The pin hole nicks in the finish have almost all been repaired and blended in with the stain coat. The grain really stands on the finished bowl and shank. The polished black vulcanite stem works together with the beautiful grain in the briar to give the pipe a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. The pipe is ready to head back to Paresh in India once I have finished a few more projects for him. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this beautiful little Stanwell.  There were two larger factory fills in the bowl that were rock hard and not workable. I could not pick them out or get the stain to permeate the putty. They are visible in the next two photos. Ah well they will remain in the finished pipe.

Tale of Two Somerset Brothers – Part 2


BENT RHODESIAN

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I had finished the work on Somerset 8 Paneled Billiard and I was very pleased with the way it turned out. I have smoked this pipe and have to concede that it was one of the better smoking pipes in my current rotation, the draw is open and full and very smooth right up to the last morsel of tobacco. This is due to the perfect alignment of the draught hole, mortise and stem tenon. Very happy with this one, I must say!!!!!!

The sibling of the first Somerset Brother, now in my hand, is the Bent Rhodesian, and my favorite shape. The upper half of the bowl has beautiful wavy circular sandblast all round which extend to the round shank, while the bottom of the bowl has densely packed birdseye which is seen in the sandblast. Overall, this is one pipe with a beautiful sandblast patterns and as I have come to expect, the quality of the finish and vulcanite stem is par excellence. Like its paneled billiard sibling, this pipe too has a smooth and flat bottom surface and bears the only stampings seen on the pipe. It is stamped on the bottom as “SOMERSET” in a mild arch over “IMPORTED BRIAR” in straight line, all in capital letters. There is no other stamp on either shank or on the stem. The stummel and shank is stained with a very dark reddish/ maroon hue. The stem is high quality vulcanite without any stampings. As conceded in my write up on the Somerset Paneled Billiard, I have been unsuccessful in unearthing information about this brand and still remain a blind spot in my quest for knowledge on pipes. I sincerely request you to share any information you may have on this pipe.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The sandblast on this pipe is covered in dirt, dust and grime and appears dull and lackluster. The bowl is heavily caked and there is overflow of lava on to the rim. This will have to be removed in order to ascertain the condition of the chamber walls. From my experience working on the paneled billiard, I won’t be surprised to find cracks and heat fissures on the walls of the chamber. There is a very strong sweet smell to the cake, which perhaps may vanish after the chamber has been cleaned.The mortise is filled with oils and tars and appears to be clogged. There is no free flow of air through the mortise. This will have to be cleaned. There is also a slight gap in the fitting between the stem and the shank. Maybe this will be resolved after a good cleaning of the mortise. The fitting of the stem in to the shank is very loose and just drops of when turned upside down.The stem is heavily oxidized and the edge of the lip on the top surface has been bitten out of shape. There is a bite mark close to the disfigured edge of the lip. These issues will have to be addressed.THE PROCESS
I reamed the bowl with a Kleen Reem pipe tool and with a knife; I further took the cake down to the briar. I have realized that the knife is best suited to remove the cake from the bottom of the chamber. As anticipated, the chamber walls did show the beginnings of a burn out!!!! With a 150 grit sand paper, the walls of the chamber were rid of all the remnants of the cake, presenting a clear picture of the extent of the damage. This pipe too had cracks at exactly same location as its sibling, though not as alarming. Since the pipe ash was still being collected, I cleaned the internals of this pipe with bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Since the strong sweet smell did not diminish even after the cake had been removed, I decided to give it a salt and alcohol bath. I filled the bowl and shank with kosher salt up to just below the rim top and end of the shank respectively. I filled it up with isopropyl alcohol and set it aside over night to allow it to extract all the residual oils from the chamber and the shank. Next day, the salt and alcohol had done its job. I remove the darkened salts and clean the mortise with bristled pipe cleaners. I set it aside to dry. Once the internals were cleaned, I scrubbed the externals of the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and dried it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth. I set it aside to dry. I cleaned the walls of the chamber with cotton pads dipped in isopropyl alcohol (since I was simultaneously working on the repair to the chamber of the Paneled Billiard, there is inescapable repetition of the process). Once cleaned, I inserted a folded pipe cleaner into the shank and up to the draught hole to prevent it from clogging. I made putty like paste of pipe ash and water. This paste was evenly applied to the entire inner surface of the chamber with a thin bamboo frond with shaved end to form a spatula, a bigger one at that, as compared to a regular one. I set it aside to dry out. The climate here being very wet and humid, it will take a long time to dry out.

The coating dried completely after about a week and I just gently scrapped the chamber with very light hands to check the layer. Alas, the complete coating just crumbled out leaving a very dry coat of ash through which all the cracks were easily discernible.

Fortunately, I had started collecting pipe ash and mixed it with yogurt. Using the same earlier method, I applied an even coat of pipe ash, yogurt and also added two capsules of activated charcoal. I set it aside to dry out, praying that the mixture bonds well and sticks to the walls of the chamber. A few days later, the mixture had completely cured and it did not crumble. The bonding appeared to be strong and durable. With a 400 grit sand paper, I sanded the inner walls very lightly to smooth the walls. Now the internal walls are looking solid and ready for duty again!!!! Once the issue of cracked chamber wall was addressed, I turned my attention back to the exterior of the stummel. I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. Working the stem, with a Bic lighter, I flamed the surfaces of the stem to raise the tooth chatter and minor bite marks. To address the bite mark and repair the edge of the lip, I spot apply a drop of CA superglue and leave it over night to cure. The next evening, I shape the fill using flat head needle file and carve a crisp edge. To further blend in the fill, I sand the stem with a 220 grit sand paper. I sanded it down with 220, 400 and 800 grit sand paper. I wiped the stem with cotton pad dipped in alcohol to remove the resultant dust. I rubbed some extra virgin olive oil in to the stem and set it aside to be absorbed in to stem. I polished the stem with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000. I rub a little extra virgin olive oil in to the stem after every three pads. I finish the polishing of the stem by rubbing a small quantity of Paragon wax and giving it a final polish with a soft cotton cloth. The stem is now nice, smooth and shiny. I cleaned the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol. Here, I realized that the issue of loose stem was yet to be addressed. This issue was addressed by heating the tenon with a Bic lighter, constantly rotating the stem, till the tenon was slightly pliable. I gently pushed a rounded needle file in to the tenon to enlarge it and set it aside to cool down. Once cooled down, I wiped it clean with a cotton cloth soaked in cold water. I tried the fit, and the stem sat in the shank snugly, making all the right kind of noises. I was very pleased with the fit.To finish the pipe, I rubbed a small quantity of HALCYON II wax which is used for rusticated/ sandblasted surfaces and set it aside for a few moments. Thereafter I polished it with a horse hair shoe brush and a soft cotton cloth. These Somerset pipe are very well made and smoke fantastic. The quality of the vulcanite is high grade and feels good to clench. The finished pipe is shown below. Since the completion of this restoration, I have smoked this pipe and included it in my rotation. Believe you me, this pipe, like its sibling, smokes perfect with a nice, smooth draw right to the end. This leads me to think, is it only necessary to have Dunhill, Barling, Comoy’s etc, as fantastic smokers? Well, my personal experience with these two Somersets, is that while the above mentioned brands are excellent pipes, the lesser known ones do need to be looked at and not discarded outright!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for your patience and looking forward to inputs about this brand and the write up. Cheers…………

 

Kathy’s Dad’s Pipes – Restoring a Barontini De Luxe Brandy


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table is also from George Koch’s estate. It is a Barontini De Luxe Brandy shaped pipe with a quarter bend. The pipe was one of many that came to my brother and me in several shipments of pipes from George’s daughter Kathy. When Jeff got each box the pipes were well wrapped and packed. Jeff unwrapped them and took the following photo to give an idea of the volume of the pipes that we purchased. The Barontini came in mixed in a box of pipes much like the one below.In each of the previous blogs that I have written on the restoration of George’s pipes I have told his story. To me it is important to keep the story attached to the pipes that came from his collection. Each pipe I work on I remind myself of the man and in the work give a remembrance to the pipeman who owned these pipes. Having held a large number of his pipes in my hand and having a pretty good feel for the shapes, colour and stems that he liked, I can almost imagine George picking out each pipe in his collection at the Malaga shop in Michigan. I am including Kathy’s brief bio of her father and a photo of her Dad enjoying his “Malagas”. Here is George’s bio written by his daughter.

Dad was born in 1926 and lived almost all his life in Springfield, Illinois. He was the youngest son of German immigrants and started grade school knowing no English. His father was a coal miner who died when Dad was about seven and his sixteen year old brother quit school to go to work to support the family. There was not much money, but that doesn’t ruin a good childhood, and dad had a good one, working many odd jobs, as a newspaper carrier, at a dairy, and at the newspaper printing press among others.

He learned to fly even before he got his automobile driver’s license and carried his love of flying with him through life, recertifying his license in retirement and getting his instrumental license in his seventies and flying until he was grounded by the FAA in his early eighties due to their strict health requirements. (He was never happy with them about that.) He was in the Army Air Corps during World War II, trained to be a bomber, but the war ended before he was sent overseas. He ended service with them as a photographer and then earned his engineering degree from University of Illinois. He worked for Allis Chalmers manufacturing in Springfield until the early sixties, when he took a job at Massey Ferguson in Detroit, Michigan.

We lived in Livonia, and that’s where his love for Malaga pipes began. After a few years he returned to Allis Chalmers and we moved back to Springfield. I remember that when we went back to Michigan to visit friends, Dad had to go to the Malaga store and acquire a few new pipes. Many a year I wrote to Malaga and they picked out a pipe for me to purchase that I could give Dad for a Christmas or birthday present. He was always pleased. His favorites were the straight stemmed medium sized bowl pipes, but he liked them all. 

He had some other pipes, but the Malagas were his favorites. I remember him smoking them sitting in his easy chair after work, with feet up on the ledge by the fire burning in the fireplace.  Growing up it was my job to clean them and he liked the inner bowl and stem coated with Watkins vanilla, leaving a little of that liquid in the bowl to soak in when I put them back on the rack. Dad quit smoking later in life and so they’ve sat on the racks for many years unattended, a part of his area by his easy chair and fireplace. Dad passed when he was 89 years old and it finally is time for the pipes to move on. I’m very happy they are being restored by you and your brother and hope they find homes who enjoy them as much as Dad did. Thank-you for your care and interest. — Kathy, the oldest daughter

Each blog I have posted I thank Kathy for providing this beautiful tribute to her Dad. Jeff and I appreciate your trust in allowing us to clean and restore these pipes. We are also trusting that those of you who are reading this might carry on the legacy of her Dad’s pipes as they will be added to the rebornpipes store once they are finished.

The next the pipe is a nicely shaped Barontini Brandy with an acrylic stem. It has beautiful grain all around the bowl – straight, flame and birdseye that is highlighted by the rich reddish brown stain. The top of the bowl is had some burn marks and some damage. The stamping on the top side of the shank read Barontini over De Luxe. On the underside it has the shape number 702 and Italy at the shank/stem junction. The gold and brown, swirled, pearlized Lucite stem had light tooth dents and chatter on the top and the underside of the stem. The interior of the pipe was caked and had cobwebs. Jeff took these photos before he started the cleanup work on the pipe. Jeff took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to show the condition of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. The rim top had some light lava overflow and some darkening. There appeared to be some rim damage on the inner edge toward the front of the bowl. You can see the wear on the rim top, the cake and remnants of tobacco in the bowl. It also looks like there are some cobwebs in the bowl. The pipe is dirty but in good condition.  He also took photos of the sides and bottom of the bowl and shank from the side to show the grain on this pipe. The finish is very dirty but this is a beautiful pipe. Jeff took some photos to capture the stamping on the top and underside of the shank. The first photo shows the top side of the shank with the stamping Barontini De Luxe and the second shows the shape number 702 on the underside. The third photo shows the ITALY stamping on the underside near the stem. There is also a B stamped on the acrylic stem.The next two photos show the stem surface. There are tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. There is also some wear on the sharp edge of the button.I looked up some information on the brand on the Pipephil website to get a quick overview of the history (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-b2.html). I did a screen capture of the listing for the brand. The fascinating thing that I learned in this quick overview was the connection to the entire Barontini family and to other companies like Aldo Velani. It is interesting to see the breadth of the brand in the following screen capture. The  pipe I am working on it stamped like the third photo down – the Classica and the B on the stem is identical to that pipe’s stamping.Pipedia gives further history of the brand (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Barontini,_Ilio) under the listing for Ilio Barontini. I quote that article in full as it has the connection to the De Luxe pipe that I am working on.

Cesare Barontini, who was in charge of the Barontini company since 1955, helped his cousin Ilio Barontini to establish a pipe production of his own.

Ilio started to produce machine-made series pipes of the lower to the middle price categories. Fatly 80% of the pipes went to foreign countries, the bulk being produced for various private label brands. Some of the own lines like “de Luxe”, “Etna” or “Vesuvio” gained a certain popularity. Citation: “Next to excellent craftsmanship Ilio Barontini pipes offer a wood quality, that is almost unrivalled in this price category!”.

The pipes being around still there were some unconfirmed utterances that Ilio Barontini brand has been absorbed by Cesare Barontini or even Savinelli. Who knows?

Now I had some idea of the maker of this Barontini. It appears to be one of the machine made Barontinis in the De Luxe line. Fueled by that information it was time to get working on the pipe itself and see what I had to do with it.

Jeff had reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. The rim was thoroughly cleaned and the damaged areas were obvious. Without the grime the finish looked really good. The Lucite stem would need to be worked on but I really like the profile it cast. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it.   I took close up photos of the bowl and rim top as well as the stem. You can see the condition of the rim top and bowl in the first photo. Jeff was able to remove all of the tar and oils but you can now see the damaged areas on the surface clearly. There are damaged spots on the front inner edge and the back inner edge. There are also some deep dents and nicks in the flat surface of the rim. The acrylic/Lucite stem had tooth chatter and some light tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem just ahead of the button. There was one deeper tooth mark on the underside near the button.I decided to address the damage to the rim top first. I topped the bowl on a topping board using 220 grit sandpaper. I removed the damaged surface of the rim and made it smooth once again.I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner edge of the rim. The rim top is looking far better at this point.I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the rim off after each sanding pad to remove the dust. The rim really shone once it was polished. Once it was polished the rim was ready to be stained. I started by using stain pens. I used a Maple stain pen to match the colour of the bowl. It was the closest I could get to matching the bowl. Once it cured it was streaked and not quite a match. The first photo below shows the rim after the stain pen.I carefully wiped the rim down with some isopropyl alcohol to smooth out the stain. Once it was smooth I restained it with some Fiebing’s aniline stain. I used a tan coloured stain and flamed it once I had stained the rim. I repeated staining and flaming until the coverage on the rim matched the bowl sides. The second photo below shows the look of the rim after this staining. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little wall 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 rim matches well but still needs to be polished and buffed to raise a shine on it. There were some tooth marks and chatter on the top and more chatter and a deeper tooth mark on the underside of the acrylic stem at the button. I cleaned off the surface of the stem with alcohol and filled in the deep tooth mark with clear super glue. Once it cured, I sanded both sides smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend the tooth chatter and the repair into the surface of the stem. It did not take too much sanding to remove the marks and smooth out the stem surface. When it was sanded it was smooth and the marks were gone. I polished the acrylic stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth. I the polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches and raise the shine. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. This turned out to be a beautiful pipe in terms of shape and finish. This is the thirteenth pipe that I am restoring from Kathy’s Dad’s collection. I am looking forward once again to hearing what Kathy thinks once she sees the finished pipe on the blog. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this Barontini Brandy from George’s estate. More will follow in a variety of brands, shapes and sizes. I will be adding it to the rebornpipes store shortly so if you are interested in adding it to your collection and carrying on the trust from her father send me an email or a message on Facebook. Thanks for looking.

New Life for an Unusual Freehand pipe – a Granhill Signature 1 50


Blog by Steve Laug

I have been working my way through some freehand pipes that my brother Jeff picked up recently. There are some amazing freehand pipes among them. The one on the work table now is another Granhill Freehand. I have already restored a beautiful large freehand Granhill earlier this summer (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/06/09/another-large-and-unique-freehand-pipe-a-granhill-signature-1-100/). It was a Granhill Signature 1 100 where this new one is a Granhill Signature 1 50. The pipe looked pretty good when he got it. There was dirt and grime in the plateau on the rim top. The edges were clean and undamaged. The bowl had a pretty thick cake inside. The finish on the pipe was an oil finish on natural briar. There were some carved trails up the sides of the bowl and the shank that had been lightly sandblasted and had an interesting texture. The stem was a replacement stem of cast vulcanite. It was oxidized but in decent condition. The acrylic stem on the other Granhill made me want to put the same kind of stem on this one as well. We would have to see. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup up work. Jeff took photos of the rim top to show the grime and dirt in the crevices of the rim top. There was also some darkening around the inner edge of the rim top and some lava build up that was overflowing onto the inner edge.He also took a photo of the stamping on the shank. The stamping is very clear and readable.The stem was in decent condition. The surface of the vulcanite was pitted and oxidized. There was some light tooth chatter on both sides of the stem near the thin button.Jeff had cleaned the rim top and removed the debris in the plateau. He had scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil soap and removed the dust and grime that had accumulated there. The oil finish disappeared and there was natural unfinished briar and once it was scrubbed it was clean and unstained briar. He lightly reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He cleaned the interior of the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. The pipe came to me clean and ready to do some light touch ups and polishing. The stem was cleaned but had tooth chatter on the top and underside near the button and on the surface of the button itself. I took close up photos of the rim top to show the condition of the plateau. It was very clean and there was no damage to the inner or outer edge of the rim. Jeff had been able to remove all of the tars and oils and lava coat on the edge of the bowl. The photos of the stem to give a clear picture of what it looked like before I cleaned it up. They also show the smooth shank end on this particular pipe. There was a slight bit of plateau on the top of the shank end in the second photo.In my earlier blog on the other Granhill I had done research on Pipedia to find information. I found two potential makers of the brand though they separated the name into two parts Gran Hill. The first possible maker was Michael V. Kabik with some of them stamped Made in Denmark. The spelling of the name was noted to come in other versions: Granhill, Gran-Hill. The second possibility comes from Lopes book where he states that the brand also was used by a Fargo Tobacconist, Lonnie Fay, who made freehands bearing this stamp in the 1970s. To me the similarity of the pipe to other Kabik pipes that I have worked on made me go with him as the maker of this pipe as well.

I went back to Pipedia and spent time reading about Michael Kabik (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Kabik). Here is a summary of what I found.

Michael Victor Kabik or Michael J. Kabik, now retired artisan and pipe repairman, was born in Annapolis, Maryland in 1950. As a student he was fascinated by science, but finally turned to the arts. In the early 1970s he started working as an artisan and designer for Hollyday Pipes Ltd., and when the company closed he set up in his own right.

Kabik writes as follows:

…In the 1960s, I had helped Jay build Jay’s Smoke Shop and was his first employee. Since that time, he had set up one of the very first freehand pipe-making operations in the U.S. along with his partner, Chuck Holiday, called CHP-X Pipes. The staff consisted of four full-timers actually making the pipes and perhaps another four in sales and office work. Chuck, who did the actual design and carving, had long since had serious disagreements with Jay and split. Chuck’s replacement from the staff was quitting, and Jay was in a bind. Jay offered me the job, and I gladly accepted. The fellow quitting was supposed to train me for two months but left after two weeks, leaving me with an awesome responsibility. I felt as though the future employment of all these people depended on me as the designer and cutter…and it did.

…Sadly, CHP-X closed its doors two years after my arrival, due primarily to distribution, sales force problems, and other issues to which I was not privy…In love with a medium that satisfied my creative impulses while, pretty much, paying the bills, I bought up the essential equipment and produced pipes on my own. I did this from a farm house my wife and I rented in Phoenix, Maryland. I produced pipes under the name KANE, Gran Hill and others I can’t remember as well as a private label line for a store in, I believe, South Dakota.

…In 1973, I was approached by Mel Baker, the owner of a chain in Virginia Beach called Tobak Ltd. Mel was interested in producing a freehand pipe line and was alerted to my product by Al Saxon, one of his managers and a former CHP-X employee. Mel wanted to relocate me to Virginia Beach, give me carte blanche, and recreate the CHP-X studio with, of course, a new name for the product. I’m sure my answer came very quickly.

…We decided on the name Sven-Lar. Why? Well, when I bought out CHP-X, I also got a small drawer full of metal stamps that were created for private-label work. The Sven-Lar name was conceived but never realized. Aside from having the stamp already made, there were other reasons we chose Sven-Lar. First, we were making a line of pipes in the Danish freehand tradition and also, sadly, we knew the difficulty American pipe makers had breaking the foreign market mystique barrier. The latter certainly played a big part in the demise of CHP-X.

After rereading the previous blog I was pretty certain that the pipe I was working on was another one made by Kabik. I turned my attention to restoring the pipe. I started with the clean bowl, I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the briar bowl and the rim top as well as the briar shank. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers, working it into the exterior of the pipe. I worked it into the plateau top with a horsehair shoe brush. I wiped it off and buffed it with a soft cloth to polish it. The pipe really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I wrapped a piece of dowel with 220 grit sandpaper and sanded out the inside of the bowl to smooth the walls. I removed all of the remaining cake on the walls of the bowl.I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I looked over the replacement stem and decided to not use it. I went through my stem collection and found a nice brown swirled acrylic stem that I thought would look good with the pipe bowl.  It was very similar to the stem on the other Granhill I worked on so I decided to use it instead. I took photos of the two stems side by side for comparison.I sanded the tenon end with a Dremel and sanding drum and smoothed it out with 220 grit sandpaper to adjust the tenon to the same diameter as the tenon on the replacement stem. It did not take too much work to adjust the fit to the shank.I sanded out the tooth marks out of both sides of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked over the surface with sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter, marks and to smooth out the surface. There were tooth deeper tooth marks on the top side of the stem that I would need to fill in and work on. I filled in the dents with clear super glue. Once the glue cured I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the acrylic. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust on the acrylic. I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and I set it aside to dry. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad to remove the sanding dust. Once I had finished with the last pad I wiped it down with a light coat of olive oil to collect the dust and to give some depth to the finish. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The plateau on the rim top and the smooth natural oiled finish work very well with the swirled brown acrylic stem. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. While I have worked on other Michael Kabik pipes (a CHIP-X) this is the second Granhill pipe of his that I have restored. It is well crafted and is very similar to the CHIP-X that I worked on in the past. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 2 1/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. This one will be added to the rebornpipes store soon. If you are interested in adding it to your collection send me an email to slaug@uniserve.com or send me a message on Facebook. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this Granhill freehand.

 

Restoring a Sasieni Fantail


Blog by Paresh Despande

This large sized Sasieni was always on my mind to work on and I wanted to work on it at leisure as I wanted to do justice to this solid large piece of briar. What intrigued me was the shape of the stem towards the bore end where it flared out to a large extent which was made more pronounced due to pinching of the stem between the saddle and button end.

The pipe has beautiful, densely packed small sized birdseye grain on the right side of the stummel while the left side has a mix of straight and birdseye grains. The front and back of the stummel has densely packed cross grains. The shank has a flat bottom in the middle making it a sitter and has cross grains running across the top and bottom surface. Right and left side of the shank shows small, beautiful and densely packed birdseye. The shank, on the left side, bears the stamp of Sasieni” over “FANTAIL” and football COM stamp of “MADE IN” over “ENGLAND” towards the bowl. At the edge of the shank where it meets the stem, it is stamped “PATD- 170067”, which has been circled in red. On the right side, it is stamped “LONDON MADE” with numeral “55” towards the bowl. The stem bears the stamp “F” on the left side of the saddle. Except for the PATD number, the stampings are crisp and clear. I wanted to gain some background information about this brand and unravel some detailed information and period it was made in, about this particular pipe that I have been working on. There are three sites I frequent for information, first being Pipedia.com, second is pipephil.eu and the third being rebornpipes.com. Over a period of time, I have realized that Mr. Steve Laug has been working on pipes for such a long time that there are hardly any brands and models that he has not worked on and so, instead of reinventing the wheel, I first visit rebornpipes to eke out necessary information I seek. Luckily for me, Mr. Steve had indeed worked on a Sasieni Fantail wire rusticated and has researched this pipe. Here is the link to the blog written by him for necessary information and is a highly recommended read, https://rebornpipes.com/2017/06/07/sasieni-fantail-wire-rusticated-patent-billiard/.

I now know that “FANTAIL” is a Sasieni second line pipe and is from the “Family Era” from the period 1946 to 1979. Mr. Steve, thank you Sir for allowing me to reproduce your work in my write up. Now, that my curiosity has been satiated, I progress to my visual inspection of the pipe.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION

This large sized straight billiard has its stummel covered in dust, oils and grime giving it a dull and sad appearance. The front of the stummel has two chips and will need to be addressed. The chamber has a thick cake which has been evenly reamed to a nice thickness of a dime!!!!! Either my grand old man had learned to care for his pipe during later years or this one belonged to his friend!!!! The rim top is clean but shows some darkening along the entire surface. The inner and outer edges of the rim are intact. It has a faint sweet smelling cake. The mortise and shank is clogged and will require a thorough cleaning.It is the stem which has, comparatively, the most damage on this pipe. Both the surfaces have tooth chatter and a couple of deep bite marks. This needs to be addressed.

THE PROCESS

Now that I have moved out of my hometown for work, I sorely miss Abha’s help in cleaning the chamber and the stummel. I cleaned the chamber of all the cake by reaming it with a Kleen Reem pipe cleaner. With my fabricated knife, I scrap the bottom and the walls of the chamber of all the remaining cake taking it down to solid bare briar. To smooth out the surface and get rid of last remnant cake, I sand it down with a 220 grit sand paper. I cleaned the internals of the shank and mortise with pipe cleaners and cue tips dipped in isopropyl alcohol (99.9%). I use this alcohol as it evaporates rapidly and leaves no odor behind. The chamber is now clean, smooth and fresh smelling. The internal walls of the chamber are solid with no signs of burn out or heat fissures, which is definitely a big relief. I resorted to light sanding of the rim edges with 220 grit sand papers to remove the very minor dents and chips on the inner edges. The rim surface does show darkening all along. I address this issue and the issue of a dirty stummel by cleaning it with Murphy’s oil soap and a tooth brush. I rinse it under tap water and dried it with paper towels. Thereafter I sand the rim surface with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000. I wipe down the rim surface with a moist cloth to get rid of the sanding dust.  I address the two chips in the front of the stummel by spot filling each chip with clear CA super glue. I let it cure overnight. Next day, with flat head needle file, I sand down these fills and further match these fills with the stummel surface using 400 and 800 grit sand papers. I am satisfied with the end result. Turning my attention to the stem, I clean the surfaces of the stem with alcohol and cotton pads. I sand the stem with a 220 grit sand paper to even out the minor tooth chatter and fill the deeper tooth bite marks with CA super glue and set it aside to cure for about a day. After the glue had cured, I sanded the fills with a flat head needle file. To further match the fills with the surface of the stem, I sanded it with 220, 400 and 800 grit sand paper. I wiped the stem with cotton pad dipped in alcohol to remove the resultant dust. I rubbed some extra virgin olive oil in to the stem and set it aside to be absorbed in to stem. I polished the stem with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000. I rub a little extra virgin olive oil in to the stem after every three pads. I finish the polishing of the stem by rubbing a small quantity of Paragon wax and giving it a final polish with a soft cotton cloth. The stem is now nice, smooth and shiny. I fill the “F” stamp on the stem with whitener and carefully remove the extra smear, revealing a clear and bold stamp. Once I was satisfied with the stem repair, I started work on the stummel which has dried by now. I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. To finish, using a cotton cloth and brute muscle power, I gave it a final polish. I re-attach the stem with the stummel. The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the photographs speak for themselves. Thank you for having the patience to reach this far while reading the write up. Your comments are of utmost importance to me for improving my skills in restoration process as well as writing about it. Cheers!!!!!

PS: Apologies for poor quality of pictures. I will definitely try to work on it.

Restoring a Mystery Freehand – a Hand Made in Denmark. Is it a Preben Holm?


Blog by Steve Laug

Jeff found this old pipe in an antique shop in Stevensville, Montana. He continues to show that he has an eye for old and unique pipes. This one is a tall, stack Freehand pipe with a large bowl and beautiful grain patterns around the sides of the bowl and shank. There is straight, flame and birdseye grain around the sides, top and bottom of the bowl. The rim cap is smooth and a mix of grain patterns. The finish was dirty but seemed to have a matte finish under the grime and grit. The rim top had an overflow of tars, oils – lava from the thick cake in the bowl. It was truly a mess but the buildup probably protected the inner and outer edges of the rim. It was stamped on the underside of the shank just ahead of where the stem is inserted. It is simply stamped Hand Made over In over Denmark. The stamping is identical to the stamping on Ben Wade Pipes that I have in my collection and something in my memory says I have read that somewhere. The stem has chair leg turnings that are similar to many freehand pipe stems. There is nothing stamped on the side or top of the stem. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup work. Jeff took some close up photos of the rim top to show the condition of the bowl and rim. There was some overflow of lava and dirt on the rim top and there was a pretty thick cake in the bowl. The pipe is quite tall and the cake went to the bottom of the bowl. The inner and outer edges looked to be in good condition.Jeff took photos of the bowl from various angles to show the condition of the finish. The beautiful grain is visible in the photos. The finish is dirty but looks good under the grime.   The stamping on the underside of the shank is clear and readable. It simply reads Hand Made with a faint stamp “In” below that followed by Denmark. The second and third photos below show the damage to the left edge of the shank. There were some chips and nicks in the finish. None were too deep in the briar so would need to rework that area of the shank. The stem was in decent condition. It was oxidized on both sides and there were some nicks and tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button. There were no deep tooth marks which is really a relief.I reread the articles on Pipedia and Pipephil on both Preben Holm and Ben Wade pipes. I could not find the comment I was looking for on the Hand Made In Denmark stamp. So I would not have the luxury of knowing the history or who the carver was. Many things about the pipe made me still think it was a Ben Wade pipe but I may never know. I am hoping one of you who are reading this might have a clue for me.

Jeff has become a magician in cleaning up pipes. When I get them they are clean to the point of looking almost new. It is nice to work on pipes that he has cleaned up once again. In this case he reamed it with a PipNet reamer and smoothed the walls of the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim and shank with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to the oils and tars on the bowl, rim and shank. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. He was able to remove all of the buildup on the rim top and the grime from the bowl. He soaked the stem in Before & After Deoxidizer and when it had done its work rinsed and cleaned the airway with pipe cleaners and alcohol. The tooth marks were clean but visible. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it. I took some photos of the rim top to show what it looked like after Jeff had cleaned off the grime and tars. The briar was in good condition but there were some nicks and scratches in the flat top but none appeared too deep. The inner and outer edges of the bowl looked very good. The stem had cleaned up really well with the deoxidizer and need repair and polishing. It showed tooth marks on the underside and some chatter but it was otherwise in good condition. I decided to address the chips on the left side of the shank and reshape the shank end first. I sanded out the chips and reshaped the edge with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I shaped it to match the shape of the shank edge on the right side of the pipe. I worked on the end view as well. I wiped down the bowl with alcohol on cotton pads to remove the debris and dust from the clean up. I worked on the rim top as well to work on the darkening that was on different parts of the rim. I rubbed some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar to enliven, clean and preserve it. I rubbed it in with my fingertips working it into the briar. I worked it into the edges of the shank and the bowl. I set it aside for a little while to let the balm do its work. I buffed it off with a cotton cloth. The photos below show the pipe at this point in the restoration process.The rim top still had some areas on the left side and back edge that would need to be worked on. You can see it as a line around the bowl. I have circled the area in red so that you can see what I am noting at this point.I worked on the rim top and the edge of the shank that I had reshaped with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded the rim top and the left side of the shank with 1500-2400 grit pads and was able to remove the circled damage on the rim and blend the edge of the shank. I polished it by dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the areas down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the dust. I touched up the stain on the top of the rim and left edge of the shank to blend those areas into the colour on the rest of the pipe. I used a Maple and Cherry stain pen to approximate the colour of the pipe. I still need to buff the bowl and shank but the colour appears to be a perfect match. I buffed the bowl and shank with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and gave the bowl a coat of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine and blend the stain into the rest of the finish. I took the following photos to show the bowl at this point in the process. I set aside the bowl and turned my attention to the stem. I wiped down the stem with alcohol and filled in the tooth marks on the top and underside with clear super glue. I set the stem aside to let the repairs cure.When the repairs cured I sanded them with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the vulcanite. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil and took some photos of the stem at this point.I polished the stem using micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and then buffing on the wheel with red Tripoli. I dry sanded the stem with 3200-12000 grit pads to further polish it. After each pad I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil to protect and enliven the stem. I polished it further with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. When I finished with the polish I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. This smooth finished stack Freehand is an interesting and unusual piece. The Hand Made In Denmark stamp on the shank I think is one of Preben Holm’s marks but I cannot prove it. The shape of the pipe takes full advantage of the grain on the briar. The mix of grains – straight, flame and birdseye all work together to give this pipe a beautiful look from any direction it is viewed. The reddish brown of the bowl and the black of the vulcanite stem contrast well together. I buffed the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish to raise the shine on the briar and the vulcanite. I was careful to not buff the stamping and damage it. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 3/4 inches, Outside Diameter: 1 1/2 inches, Diameter of the chamber: 7/8 of an inch. It is an interesting old pipe and should make a great collectible piece. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.