Tag Archives: replacing fills with briar dust and super glue

Hole in the Wall Gold Mine: Butz-Choquin Cocarde Major Rhodesian


Blog by Dal Stanton

Even though it was a snow trudging kind of day, making it to the ‘Hole in the Wall’ paid off again.  I mentioned this visit before when I was writing up the restoration of the Stanwell Silver Mount.  On this visit, I saw the Stanwell for the first time, but didn’t bite.  The next time I would!  On this visit, I found another very nice example of St. Claude, France’s claim to fame as an historic center of pipe production – rivaling the UK for market share in Europe.  When I saw the Butz-Choquin Cocarde Major in the pipe basket on the cluttered Hole in the Wall shelf, my initial reaction was its size – a hefty guy.  My first assessment was that it was a Bulldog shape, then I noted the large rounded shank – a Rhodesian or a Bullmoose?  This one is going home with me regardless!  I looked in the basket for a good pipe to bundle and I saw an attractive, diminutive, Bent Billiard Sitter with a swan neck stem – unmarked, but a very nice looking pipe.  When I got home I took a quick picture of the bundled pair and put them in the ‘Help Me!’ basket for later attention.butz1 butz2When I take the BC Cocarde Major out of the basket, I am anxious to recommission this nice-looking Rhodesian, I decide.  The first thing I do is pull up Google Translator and insert Cocarde Major in the French to English machine.  I did not study French in school so help is appreciated.  I want to know if special meaning is attached to this St. Claude BC.  Cocarde translated into English as the word, ‘Cockade’ which was defined as, a rosette, roundel or knot of ribbons worn in a hat as a badge of office or party, or as part of a livery. With a little looking on the internet, I found these interesting French examples of Cocardes.butz3With this meaning for ‘Cocarde’ it put doubt in my mind regarding my original thought that ‘Major’ referred to large or big.  Attaching Major to the idea of the French symbol of national pride, it is most likely pointing to a level of rank, or when ‘Major’ is attached to another rank (e.g., sergeant-major) it denotes the ranking of one superior among those of the same rank.  I emailed a colleague living and working in Toulouse, France, whose command of the language could help.  His comments confirmed what I was thinking:

The word cockade refers to a national symbole for the French, like “cocarde tricolore’ refers to the French flag which is, of course, one of the most important symbols of the French people and national pride.  It has many meanings, but for example official cars or planes have this symbol on it.  You are right about the word Major, refering to a military grade. Used as an adjectif, “majeur” it means big.   I would conclude that this is simply the name of the pipe.  You can’t translate it literally.  The pipe’s name implies in my opinion that it is a symbol of French pride, like the French insignia for a general in the military.

With the symbols of French pride stamped on this BC Rhodesian, I have a greater appreciation for the pipe when I take more pictures now on my worktable.butz4 butz5 butz6 butz7 butz8The stampings on the left side of the shank are “Butz-Choquin” in an arched script over “Concarde” over “Major”.  On the right side is, “St Claude” arched over “France” over “1028”, the BC shape number.  Per Pipedia’s history of the name, when Jean-Baptiste Choquin of Metz, started out as a tobacconist and the business prospered.  In 1858, one of his employees, one Gustave Butz, fell for his boss’ daughter and they were married.  That same year, Butz and Choquin came together to form the enterprise that is now known as Butz-Choquin, and eventually moved the operation from Metz to St. Claude, known as “the world capital of the briar pipe”.  Looking on the internet, I found another BC shape ‘1028’ but was called a ‘Bourbon Major’.  The shape was that of a Bulldog, with the diamond shank.  I know there is debate regarding the difference between Bulldog and a Rhodesian classification, but I am happy with Bill Burney’s descriptive difference in the Pipedia shapes Chart, that the difference between the two is, the Rhodesian has a round shank and the Bulldog, a diamond.

So, looking more closely at the BC Rhodesian in front of me, I see that the surface is generally in good shape – striking grain patterns.  There are two noticeable fills that need addressing.  There is also a chip over the shank, where the double grooves meet – the grooves forming the border between the upper and lower cones of the Rhodesian stummel.  The chamber has thick carbon cake buildup and needs removal down to the briar for a fresh start.  The stem has very little oxidation and a couple distinct clincher tooth marks on the top bit and chatter above and below.  The stamped ‘BC’ stem marking is in good shape but the white color needs touching up.  The following pictures show the question areas on the stummel – mainly fills and the chip.butz9 butz10Even though the oxidation is minor, I put the stem in an Oxi-Clean bath for a few hours to raise the oxidation to the surface.  I first cover the stem ‘BC’ stamp with petroleum oil.  Turning to the stummel, I take the Pipnet Pipe Reamer kit and use the two smaller blades of the four available and remove the cake using first the smallest, then graduating to the next larger when the blade stops meeting resistance.  This cake is hard and crusty but vacates in short order.  I fine tune the reaming with my Savinelli Pipe Knife.  I’ve grown to like this handy tool.  What The Pipe Smoker blog says about it is spot on:

Basically, a three-sided scraper, it can be placed in the chamber exactly where it needs to be placed and then cake is scraped off with a simple movement of the wrist. It allows full control over where the cake is being reduced. It has a rounded tip, which means that it will not damage the bottom of the bowl. It makes no difference, whether the chamber is straight or conical, I can use the same tool on either. It requires no adjustment. 

After the Savinelli pipe knife scrapes the chamber wall, I wrap 240 grit paper around a Sharpie pen and sand the chamber removing the last vestiges of carbon.  I then wipe the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  The chamber looks great.  I fold up the paper towel and my work station is clean again.  Pictures show the progress.butz11 butz12 butz13 butz14I then switch to the internals of the stummel and clean the mortise and airhole with pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl 95%.  After some extended effort, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs are coming out clean.  Later, I’ll add another measure of cleaning by giving the stummel a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I like to go the extra mile when I’m preparing a pipe for a new steward.  The picture shows the progress.butz15Turning to the stummel externals, I remove the grime on the surface and clean the rim.  I use undiluted Murphy Oil Soap with cotton pads.  I use a bristle tooth brush as well to clean the double grooves circling the cone.  I also employ a brass brush to clean the lava and grime off the rim.  The pictures show the progress.butz16Time to fish the stem from the Oxi-Clean bath.  It’s amazing that even when the stem looks to have little oxidation, the Oxi-Clean bath raises the oxidation to the surface.  I wet sand with 600 grit paper to remove the bulk of the oxidation from the vulcanite and then follow-up using 0000 steel wool. Throughout this process, I give care to work around the ‘BC’ stem stamping.  Pictures show the progress.butz17With the tooth dents on the upper bit, I attempt to remove by using a lit candle’s heat to raise the indentations by expanding the vulcanite but it wasn’t working well.  So, I apply a small drop of super glue to the spots and then apply an accelerator to cure the glue.  After a few minutes, I use the flat edge needle file to file down the superglue patches to the vulcanite surface.  While I have the file out, I file the button lip, upper and lower, to give them more definition.  I follow with applying 240 grit paper to remove the file marks and to fine tune and blend the superglue patches.  I follow with 600 grit paper and then 0000 steel wool.  The pictures show the progress.butz18 butz19 butz20 butz21I clean and freshen the internals of the stummel further with a Kosher Salt/alcohol soak for several hours.  I set the stummel in a sturdy egg carton and twist a cotton ball and feed it into the mortise, pushing it in with a straight wire.  I then fill the chamber with kosher salt which is not iodized – which can leave a taste.  Then, I fill the chamber with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces above the salt.  The pictures show the process.butz22The next morning, the salt/alcohol soak had run its course and from the darkening of the salt and the cotton wick, the process effectively cleaned and freshened the stummel internals even after the plethora of pipe cleaners and cotton swabs.  I dump the old expended salt and thump the stummel on my palm, then use a paper towel and wipe the bowl.  I use bristle brushes to clean the mortise and again, pipe cleaners through the airway to finish the cleanup.  As billed, the soak works.  Pictures show the soak results.butz23With the internals of the stummel clean, I clean the internals of the stem.  Using pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% I work on the stem.  After I begin, even though the ¼ bent saddle stem is not an extreme bend, I’m surprised that I am not able to move a pipe cleaner through the stem without difficulty.  Finally, I pass a bristled pipe cleaner through and move it back and forth, hoping that it loosens up the passageway. It doesn’t.  I decide to use the technique that Charles Lemon used on Dad’s Pipes (See here: Link) of expanding the airway by heating the stem and moving a pipe cleaner through.  Just to be on the safe side, I draw an outline of the stem’s bend to use as a template for a comparison after I re-bend the pipe back to the original.  I first straighten the stem by warming it with a heat gun until the vulcanite becomes pliable.  After inserting a pipe cleaner through the stem, I then reheat the stem and return the stem to the ¼ bend.  Now, back to the original curve comparing to the template, without difficulty I complete the cleaning of the stem using isopropyl dipped pipe cleaners moving freely through the airway.  I also clean the crud out of the slot with a dental probe.  Pictures show the process.butz24 butz25Before starting the micromesh phase to raise the luster of the BC bent stem, I use Miracle Eraser on the ‘BC’ stem stamp to remove the oxidation without applying an abrasive to the stamp.  It does seem to help.  Then, I wet sand the stem using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, followed by dry sanding with 3200 to 4000, then 6000 to 12000.  I complete each set by applying Obsidian Oil to revitalize the vulcanite.  To watch the stem gradually pop, is an amazing process.  This Butz-Choquin is cleaning up nicely.  I set the stem aside to dry.butz26 butz27Now I return to the stummel and take a close look.  After cleaning with Murphy’s Soap, I detect about 4 or 5 fills on the surface that need addressing. The fills are solid but with some, I’m able to scrape of the upper layer of the fill.  There is also a chip in the double grove going around the stummel.  With the smaller fills, that are not pitted, I use dye sticks, starting with a lighter hue and graduating to a darker hue, until the blend is best.  I then use a lightly dampened cotton pad with isopropyl 95% to dab the areas to blend further with the surrounding briar.  The pictures show the progress.butz28 butz29With those more pitted, I mix a bit of superglue and briar dust to form a putty and apply on the pitted fills.  Carefully, I also paint the groove chip and before the putty start hardening, I clear overflow putty from the grooves with a sharp dental probe.  I use an accelerator to cure the briar dust putty patches more rapidly.   After a short time, I sand each putty fill to bring it to the briar surface.  I first carefully use a flat needle file to work the putty hills down to almost surface level then I use 240 grit paper to sand to the surface level.butz30 butz31 butz32Decision time.  I want to restore this Butz-Choquin as close to the original shade as I can.  I discovered on TobaccoPipes.com a BC in the same shape group as the Cocarde Major – 1028.  In the picture below, the shade of the stummel is light and I think I can achieve this by simply sanding the stummel and restoring the briar to its original natural luster – MINUS what appears to be an acrylic finish below. I can still decide to apply a stain at the end of the sanding process after I have a better idea of the briar as it emerges.  The shape below is a BC Cocarde 1025 – the only difference I detect is the tapered stem versus the saddle stem.butz33First, I want to freshen the rim lines and re-cut an inner bevel which will look better and remove discoloration on the inner rim edge.  The rim has a subtle slant toward the chamber.  I cut the initial bevel using a coarse 120 grip paper rolled tightly.  When I reestablish the bevel, I follow by sanding with 240 grit sanding paper.  I then sand the stummel using a medium grade sanding sponge, followed by a light grade sanding sponge.  I am careful to work around the stampings on the sides of the shank.  Before I move on to the micromesh sanding, I use dye sticks to help blend the fill patch areas that are not yet blending.  After applying the dye stick, I then lightly dab the area with a cotton pad slightly wetted with alcohol.  This helps blend with the surrounding briar.  The pictures show the progress.butz34 butz35 butz36 butz37I follow by using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and wet sand the stummel.  After this, I dry sand using 3200 to 4000 then finish with pads 6000 to 12000.  I then run a toothpick through both grooves connecting the upper and lower domes of the Rhodesian to remove residue remaining from the sanding process.butz38 butz39To step back and take in the big picture, I reunite stem and stummel and take a picture.  I see two distinct briar dust putty fills that are looking like I should have used a clear superglue fill instead.  They are darker than the surrounding grain environment – not an ideal situation.butz40I decide I can live with the fill on the upper cone, next to the rim.  It is smaller and I hope that it will blend after applying a light brown stain which is looking like will be needed.  With the larger lower fill, I will delicately try reaming the fill with the point of a Dremel tool to remove the putty.  Depending on how that goes, the next step will be to shape the fill somewhat so that the shape is less circular and flows more with the surrounding grain pattern.  Then, I will fill the new hole with clear superglue, sand and again be back to where I am now – hopefully with better blending.  Phase one seems to go well – very carefully.  With the Dremel tool I clean the putty fill and shape the pit circle to flow with the grain.  I then spot-glue and use accelerator to cure the new clear patch.  Looking good so far.   I use a flat needle file to remove the superglue fill mound almost to the briar surface, then I use 240 grit paper rolled, to strategically stay on top of the glue to bring it down to surface.  I follow with 600 grit, then steel wool, then the full array of 9 micromesh pads, 1500 to 12000.  I touch up a bit with a light dye stick and blend with a cotton pad with a bit of alcohol.  I am now back to where I was at the beginning of the detour. The fill is still visible, but doesn’t jump out proclaiming, “Here I am, Boys!”  The pictures show the detoured progress.butz41 butz42 butz43 butz44Now, to promote blending throughout the entire stummel, I use Fiebing’s Light Brown Leather Dye.  I warm the stummel to open the grains to receive the dye.  Using a doubled-over pipe cleaner I liberally apply the dye over the stummel careful to achieve full coverage, rim and grooves.  I then flame the aniline dye with a lit candle and the alcohol immediately burns off, setting the dye in the grain.  To achieve total coverage, I repeat the process above after a few minutes, complete with flaming.  I put the stummel aside to rest and I’ll return to it after work this evening.butz45One last task to do before heading to work.  I want to freshen the ‘BC’ stem marking with white acrylic paint.  I put a small dab of paint over the ‘BC’ and then use a toothpick to spread the paint, making sure the marks are fully covered.  Tonight, after the paint is fully cured, I’ll scrape off the excess leaving a fresh Butz-Choquin stem.butz46Back home and ready to go.  The white acrylic paint has fully cured on the stem marking.  I take a toothpick and gently scrape the excess paint away using the side of the toothpick.  Doing this, the toothpick passes over the top of the stamping leaving the indentations fully renewed.butz47Time to ‘unwrap’ the fire crusted stummel after applying Fiebing’s Light Brown Leather Dye.  Using the felt wheel, I set the speed of the Dremel to the slowest possible and using Tripoli compound, after purging the wheel of old compound with the sharp edge of the Dremel’s adjustment wrench, I remove the crust from the stummel.  I take a picture to show this process.  After the crust is removed, I use cotton pads wet with isopropyl 95% to wipe down the stummel.  I lighten the stummel’s hue a good bit aiming for the original as closely as possible and to blend the dye across the grain.  When I reach the hue that looks good, I switch to a cotton cloth wheel mounted on the Dremel, and after reuniting stem and stummel, I apply Blue Diamond compound both.  I’m loving watching the grain on this BC Cocarde Major Rhodesian start popping – it is truly an amazing process and the components of such fine abrasion produce such a result in the briar. When completed with Blue Diamond I give the pipe a buff with a felt towel, not so much for shining but to remove residue compound before I apply the wax.  After mounting the cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel, I increase the speed to the second slowest speed and apply several coats of carnauba wax to stem and stubble.  When finished, I rigorously hand buff the pipe with a micromesh cloth.butz48 butz49The grain on this Rhodesian is placed perfectly to enhance the proud, chin forward carriage of the stummel.  The horizontal flame grain crosses the heel of the stummel and flows to the sides terminating in bird’s eye – a beautiful showpiece of briar that is well-suited to bear the name of French pride – Cocarde Major.  This Butz-Choquin Rhodesian, another traveler from St. Claude, is looking for a new steward.  I sell the pipes I restore and give the profits to benefit the work we do here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria – rescuing women and children who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  If you are interested in adding this Butz-Choquin Cocarde Major Rhodesian to your collection, you can find it at the store at my blog site, The Pipe Steward.  Thanks for joining me!butz50 butz51 butz52 butz53 butz54 butz55

Breathing New Life into a Mastercraft De Luxe


Blog by Steve Laug

MC1Another one of the gift pipes that caught my eye was one stamped on the left side of the shank Mastercraft De Luxe in the shield like the one on the left. On the right side it is stamped Century Old Mediterranean Briar Israel. I have worked on quite a few Mastercraft pipes and know that the company never made pipes itself but had makers in Italy and other places make the pipes for them. I have written another blog on the lines within the Mastercraft hierarchy and know that the De Luxe was pretty high up the list of their pipes. Here is the link to the hierarchy blog https://rebornpipes.com/2014/06/23/a-mastercraft-pipe-lines-hierarchy/

When I took the pipe to the worktable my first impressions were that it was in pretty decent shape. But as I looked more closely I could see the issues that were there. The bowl had some fills in the surface on the front, left side and the underside of the shank that had shrunk and were pitted pink putty. The right side of the bowl had a deep scratch in the briar at a diagonal to the bowl that cut through the finish. The varnish coat that was on these older MC pipes was flaking around the damaged rim and around the pitted fills. The rim had some charring and darkening that would need to be addressed. When I took out the stem a previous owner had coated the entire tenon with very soft waxy substance that had gone rancid. It was all over the mortise and inside and outside of the tenon. It was thick and not easily removed. The stem was oxidized and the stamping on the side had been put on at an angle which meant that the whitening only was on one side of the MC oval. The aluminum band on the stem that fit against the end of the shank had marks on it like it had been turned with a pair pliers. It was more of a mess than first met the eye.MC2

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MC5 The next photo is a close-up of the rim to show some of the damage to the outer edge and the beveled top that would need to be addressed. This would be slightly more complicated than just topping the bowl and resurfacing things. I would have to hand sand the bevel and the edges to minimize the charring and the dents on the back outer edge. I would also need to work on the inner edge of the rim to bring it back into round condition.MC6 To facilitate the clean up on the rim I reamed the bowl back with the third cutting head of my PipNet reamer. The bowl is quite large with a diameter of 7/8 inches. I took the cake completely out of the bowl and took it back to bare wood in order to work on the inner edge of the rim.MC7 The next photo shows how the reaming with the cutting head smoothed out the surface of the inner rim considerably and made my work simpler.MC8 I decided to try to whiten the stamping on the stem (for a bit of a break from working on the bowl). I wanted to see if I could gain anything from the lighter stamping on the one side of the oval. I used a liquid white-out to fill the stamping and when it dried rubbed off the excess. It looked good initially but the stamping on the topside and the left leg and top of the M was too shallow to hold much of the whitener.MC9 I scrubbed out some of the mortise and airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the rancid smelling waxy substance (the more I worked with the more it smelled and worked like lard). It took quite a bit of scrubbing to remove the thick coat of this substance. I then used a retort on the bowl and stem and boiled it out three times before I was greeted with clean alcohol. The first boil the alcohol came out black, the second time it came out amber and finally the third time it came out clean. I scrubbed out the airway and the shank a final time with the pipe cleaners and cotton swabs and the shank and stem were finally clean.MC10

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MC16 With the interior cleaned out it was time to work on the exterior of the bowl. I scrubbed the surface of the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the varnish topcoat and the grime from the finish. Then I picked out the pink putty fills and replaced them with briar dust and super glue. I put a drop of glue in the pit, tamped in dust and then a bubble of glue on top of the patch. The next two photos show the patches after they had dried and before I sanded them.MC17

MC18 I sanded the patches with 220 grit sandpaper and followed that with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge to blend it into the surface and remove the scratches. Strangely the briar dust and super glue patch did not turn black this time as I was counting on. It was almost tan coloured. I would have to use a black permanent marker to etch in lines to match the grain around the repair and then sand them lightly to blend them in. I also sanded the horizontal scratch on the right side of the bowl until it was smooth. When I had finished sanding I scrubbed the bowl another time with acetone on the cotton pads.MC19

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MC22 I sanded the bevel on the rim and the inner and outer edges of the rim with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper and then with the sanding sponges to minimize the damage and bring the bowl back into round. I wiped down the rim with the acetone to clean up the dust.MC23 I decided to stain the pipe with a dark brown aniline stain thinned 3:1 (3 parts stain to 1 part alcohol). I wanted the stain opaque enough to cover the fills and mask them so that they did not stand out but also did not totally hide the bird’s eye and cross cut grain on the shank and bowl. This mixture of stain worked well.MC24

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MC28 After I had flamed the stain to set it I rubbed the bowl and shank down with a coarse cotton cloth to blend the finish and hand buff it. I wanted to remove some of the opaqueness on the sides of the bowl and lighten the finish slightly. Once it was done I set the bowl on a cork to dry while I worked on the stem.MC29 I lightly sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter and some of the oxidation. I used the lighter to paint the flame across the surface of the stem to burn off the oxidation and also heat the tooth marks to lift them. I was able to raise all of the tooth marks using this method. The key is to keep the flame moving across the surface and to not stop in any one place too long. Once I had flamed the stem I wiped it down and sanded it with the medium and fine grit sanding sponges. I also sanded the aluminum ring to smooth out the damage on its surface and prepare it for polishing.MC30

MC31 With the oxidation removed I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. In between each set of three pads I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil before moving on to the next set of pads. When I finished sanding with the 12,000 grit pad I rubbed it down a final time with the oil and when it dried put the stem on the pipe and took it to the buffer.MC32

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MC34 I buffed the pipe with White Diamond and gently buffed around the stamping on the shank and the stem. I gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a soft flannel buff to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The last two photos below show a close-up of the rim to show how the beveling and shaping worked to restore the look of the top of the pipe. It is ready to re-enter a life of usefulness for its next companion. It should be a great smoking pipe for whoever takes on the trust next.MC35

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It looked like someone took a saw to the bowl on this one – A Bruyere Garantie Lovat Restored


This bowl came to me showing a lot of promise but also a lot of damage. It was like someone had sawed at the bowl on the side near the shank. The cuts were more than mere flaws in the briar as they were very jagged and broken inside the cuts. There were what looked like tooth marks in the grooves. I debated on rusticating it but there was something about the challenge that made we work at ways to make it smooth once again. The inside of the bowl was in great shape. There was one damaged spot on the inside edge of the rim on the right side of the bowl. The bowl had tobacco still in it and the top of the rim was tarred and caked. There were multiple nicks in the finish all the way around the bowl but the majority of those were in line with the deep grooves. The bowl came without a stem and the shank had a nick out of the end making a clean fit almost impossible. There were no cracks in the shank so no damage in that way. The stamping on the pipe is Bruyere in a curved banner – unfurled in an arch on the left side of the shank and underneath it is stamped Garantie. The banner also seems to go across a three pointed crown that is visible underneath the banner.
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I found a precast stem in my can of stems that was close to the right diameter to the shank and turned the tenon with a PIMO Tenon Turner and then fit it in the shank. I used a Dremel to remove the excess rubber along the edges and end of the cast.
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I sanded the stem and the shank to achieve a good smooth transition between the two. In the process I was curious as to what the shank would look like with a band so I slid a band part way on and fit the stem in place to have a look.
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I liked the look of the band so I removed it and sanded the stem to fit smoothly against the shank. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper. (I have found that lower grits, courser sandpaper just makes for more scratches and is counterproductive when I am working toward refinishing the bowl.
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Once I had the fit right and the transition smooth I cleaned off the shank with isopropyl alcohol and then rubbed on some white glue I heated the band and pressed it in place. With the band in place I took the bowl back to my work table and did a light topping as the outer edges of the bowl were more damaged than I thought. I wanted a good clean rim to go with the pipe once I had stripped and refinished it.
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I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and took it back to bare wood all the way to the bottom of the bowl.
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I wiped down the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the finish. I wanted it clean of debris and grime as well as stain so that I could do the repair. I used the dental pick to clean out the edges of the two large cut marks and the smaller chatter in the briar as well. None of them actually were fills but rather gouges in the briar. I roughened the edges and wiped it down a final time with the acetone and cotton pads.
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I packed the cuts and nicks with briar dust and tamped it into place with the curved head or a pipe nail and also with the dental pick. Once they were full I dripped super glue into the grooves. I then packed more briar dust into the grooves, over filling them. I always put far more briar dust in the grooves than necessary to get good tight fills in the holes. I figure I can pack once and sand it back to the surface of the bowl instead of doing the pack two or three times. At this point in the process the photos show the pipe as a serious mess. I always wonder if I will be able to clean it up or if I had just made it a mess for nothing.
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I sanded the repairs and the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the excess material on the surface of the bowl. I followed that by sanding with a medium grit sanding block. The repairs are visible in the photos below as a solid dark brown/black coloured fill.
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I sanded the bowl further with medium and fine grit sanding sponges to remove the scratches in the surface of the bowl. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads to smooth things out even more. I wanted the surface of the repairs to be smooth with the rest of the briar on the bowl. Once the sanding was finished I wiped the bowl down with some isopropyl alcohol on a cotton pad to clean off the dust.
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I decided to give the bowl several coats of an oxblood stain that was slightly more opaque than my normal aniline stain. It is a stain that is used on kitchen cabinets and surfaces that food comes into contact with so I believe it is safe once it is dry.
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I wiped the bowl down with a soft cotton cloth to remove the excess stain and then restained it a second time. I repeated the staining until the coverage was even and clear.
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I worked on the stem some more with medium and fine grit sanding sponges and then with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200- 12,000 grit pads.
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I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and let it soak in. I looked over the bowl again and decided to give it a top coat of a walnut brown stain. I felt that it might add some darker highlights to the repaired areas and make them less noticeable. I applied the stain, flamed it, restain and reflamed it and then buffed the bowl and the stem with White Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the whole pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax and then a final buff with a soft flannel buff to add a polish. The next four photos show the finished pipe. While the flaws/cuts are still visible they are no longer deep gashes in the wood. Rather they give a sense of character to the pipe and overall it is ready to go and last a long time delivering a quality smoke.
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I took the final photo to give a close up view of the repaired gashes on the bowl. Though visible they are now smooth to the touch and solid and unmovable.
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Repairing and Reworking a Comoy’s J186 Billiard


Another part of the trade I got from Mark was this damaged Comoy’s Billiard. It has some great grain on it. The stamping is Comoy’s on the left side of the shank and J186 on the right side. It also has the characteristic circular Made in London over a straight line England. This circular stamp is next to the end of the shank. The stem was a replacement – it does not have the C logo on it. It had also been repaired. I believe that Mark must have used the black superglue to patch a couple of bite marks in the stem near the button. The shoulders on the stem were rounded and the stem shank junction was not smooth. Otherwise the finish was in fairly decent shape and the stem looked good.
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In the letter Mark included with the pipes he noted that there were small cracks in the exterior bottom of the bowl. I examined it with a light and saw that the three small cracks radiated from the three divots on the bottom of the bowl. These were flaws in the briar or dents, I am not sure which. The cracks radiated from the three points to a centre point where they met. They did not extend beyond the divots. Examining the inside of the bowl the bottom was not overly deep and there did not appear to be any cracks internally.
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I decided to work on the rounded shoulders on the stem and the stem shank junction first. This is a very easy fix and I thought I would give the cracks a bit of thought before I worked on them. I sanded the stem and shank with 220 grit sandpaper carefully avoiding the stamping. I also did not want to sand too deeply so as to taper the stem artificially from the junction forward. This took care but I was able to smooth out the rounded shoulders. I followed the 220 sandpaper with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches.
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I wiped the bowl down with acetone to remove the finish and make the restaining easier. I also wanted to clean up the bottom of the bowl to be able to examine the cracks more closely.
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As can be seen in the photo below the cracks are virtually invisible to the eye. There is no burn or darkening around the cracks so I am pretty sure that it is not a burn out. I decided to restain the bowl and see how the stain took in the area of the cracks.
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I stained the pipe with a dark brown aniline stain mixed 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol to approximate the colour on other Comoy’s I have. In the photos below it appears far redder in colour than it is in reality. I flamed the stain and repeated as necessary. The cracks were still visible so they would take a bit more work to repair.
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I worked on the stem with my usual array of micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and let it dry. I buffed it with White Diamond paying particular attention to the patches around the top and bottom of the stem near the button. I was able to blend them in well and the black of the polished stem and the black of the superglue match.
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I decided to work on the cracks on the bottom of the bowl. I scratched out the cracks using a dental pick. I was able to clean out the debris in the cracks and open them slightly. They did not go deep into the briar and there was no internal darkening in the bottom of the cracks. I packed in briar dust and dripped superglue into the briar dust. The photo below shows the superglue briar mix after it had dried. I over filled the cracks to ensure good coverage of the repair.
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I sanded the patch with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the excess glue and followed that with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge. The photo below, though slightly out of focus shows the repair clearly. It is almost a Y shaped repair.
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I mixed a batch of pipe mud – cigar ash and water to make a paste. To ensure that the bottom was not damaged I picked it clean with the dental pick and then painted it with the pipe mud. Though there was no sign of damage on the inside of the bowl, the pipe mud was a precautionary measure for peace of mind.
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I buffed the pipe with White Diamond and gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect and to give it a shine. I have set it aside to allow the pipe mud to cure before using it. I want to see if the bowl bottom heats up at all during a smoke. I am happy with the overall look of the repaired pipe. If it turns out that the cracked area over heats then it may well be a candidate for a briar plug. The verdict is still out for now, but time will tell.
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Reworking and Reshaping an Old French Briar (CPF?) Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

This old timer was one of the pipe bowls that I picked up in that EBay lot that had others with the French Briar stamping. The others had the same stamping but also had been stamped CPF on the shank or on the end cap. This one was missing the end cap so it remains a bit of a mystery as to its maker. It was also stemless. From the photos below you can see that at one point in its life it also had a rim cap that was also missing. What was left was the line around the top of the bowl and a darkened rim where the silver cap had covered it. The end of the shank was in pretty good shape but the likelihood of finding another end cap that fit or in making one was pretty low for me. The four photos below show the general state of the pipe when it came to my desk top. The finish was gone. There were several visible fills that stood out. It was one that I had to give a little thought about how I was going to tackle it. I knew that I would have to modify the shank and rework the bowl. I would also have to redrill the mortise way and fit a stem for the newly formed pipe. Ah well… let’s begin the work.
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After many failed attempts over the years to get a good straight cut on the shank and end up with a smooth and even mortise I finally figured out a way with my limited tools to accomplish that. I slip a nickel band on the shank to the place that I want to cut it off. I use the band as a guide for my hacksaw to follow. So far this method has worked for me and left me with some nice evenly cut shanks. The next three photos show the process from start to finish.
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After cutting off the shank I sanded the area where the new band would be fitted. I used my Dremel with a sanding drum to begin the process of cutting back the shank to receive the band and finished by hand sanding it with medium grit emery cloth. I set up my heat gun on it end stand, slipped the band in place and set the heat on low to warm the band so that I could press it into place. The next two photos show that process.
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With the band in place I wiped down the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad to clean off the grit and the remnants of the finish on the pipe. After I had cleaned the bowl I topped the rim with a medium and fine grit sanding pad to remove the damage to the rim edges. The next four photos show that process. During that time I also used superglue and briar dust to fill the obvious sand pits on the bowl (at the back of the bowl near the shank and on the underside). I sanded them once they were dry and was able to blend them into the bowl quite well. In the first photo below you can see the first large sand pit clearly. It was quite long and fortunately flowed with the grain so that it was easy to blend in with the briar dust and superglue. The one on the bowl bottom was a bit more difficult to blend in. In either case both are now smooth surfaces that the finish sanding would blend in as much as possible.
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I sanded the bowl with a medium grit sanding sponge to remove the damage caused by the rim cap and to remove the darkened line around the top of the bowl. The next series of three photos show how the bowl is shaping up after initial sanding. The wood is stamped French Briar but as I work it I am wondering. It is very hard, dense wood with interesting grain. It is very light weight and the feel of the sanding dust and the wood itself calls this into question for me. Maybe it is only a question of age on the pipe as it is probably from the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.
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I inserted the stem and took it to the buffer to see what it looked like at this point after buffing. I buffed it with Tripoli. The next four photos show the pipe after buffing. There was a natural reddish colour to the wood that came out more and more as I sanded it.
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After buffing the pipe I reamed it with my PipNet reamer to clean out the crumbling and broken cake that was on the surface of the bowl (Photo 1). I sanded it some more and then wiped it down with an alcohol dampened cotton pad and prepared tit for restaining (Photos 2 & 3).
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I receive regular tweets from Grant Batson, pipemaker. In one of the latest he wrote of experimenting with Danish Oil in finish the bowl of a pipe. I have several cans of that around from my refinishing furniture days so I decided to use some medium walnut coloured Danish Oil on this bowl. The next four photos show the stained pipe. I had yet to buff it or polish it at this point in the process. I just rubbed on the Danish Oil and then rubbed it off.
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I set the pipe aside for the evening so that the finish had a chance to dry well. This morning I worked on the stem and the bowl with the micromesh sanding pads. I used all grits that I have available from 1500 – 12,000 grit to sand both the bowl and the stem. The next series of six photos shows the progressively developing shine on both the stem and the bowl.
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After finishing with the micromesh sanding pads I took it to my buffer and buffed it with White Diamond. I find that this buffing with a light touch really sets the shine to a glossy finish. The next four photos show the pipe after buffing. I still had to put on the wax but the shine is very evident.
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The final series of four photos show the finished pipe. I gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a soft flannel buffing pad. I am pleased with the way it turned out. The pipe is ready for smoking and should provide service for many years to come.
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Reworking a Dr. Grabow Riviera


Blog by Steve Laug

I am finally down to the last five pipes in my refurbishing box. I have a bunch more on their way here but I would like to finish up this lot before they arrive as they have been sitting here for a long time always getting passed over and laid aside for more favorable looking options. Last evening I decided to rework this old Dr. Grabow Riviera. It was a pleasant shape but an ugly piece of briar. I removed the stem and was amazed that it was a push stem with a well made tenon. The drilling was spot on and the internals were really well done. The draught on the pipe was excellent. The bowl was clean and the drilling in the bowl was nicely done as well with the airway perfectly centered on the back bottom edge of the bowl. The externals however left much to be desired. The first series of four pictures below show the bowl with the many fills that are on the outside of the bowl. These were not tiny fills by any means; in fact the majority of them are quite large. I had to make a decision on whether to refill them or to rusticate the pipe. Last evening I just was not in the mood to rusticate the pipe. Sometimes I just feel like working over a bowl but this was not the night for doing that. So I decided to pick out the fills and rework them with briar dust and superglue and restain the pipe. The stem was in pretty decent shape also – no bite marks or tooth chatter, very clean with a minimum of oxidation.

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The next series of four photos show the bowl after I have picked out the fills with my dental pick. I actually have a good time picking out the ugly pink putty or as in this case bright white putty. The holes that were filled were not deep but they were on the larger side. Once I picked out the putty I wiped down the bowl with acetone to clean up the mess. I always try to scrunch the cotton pad down into the hole to draw out the last of the putty dust. The worst fill to work with was the one on the back side rim. It was like a saw cut in the rim. It was quite deep and intrusive going from the outside to the inside of the bowl.

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With each of the cleaned out holes I used my dental pick to tamp in briar dust. I try to tamp in the dust until the hole is packed and the dust forms a bit of a bulge on the hole. I find that once I drip in the superglue the dust settles in and the new fill is closes to the surface of the bowl. I also purposely overfill so that I can work to smooth out the fill with sandpaper and blend it into the surface of the bowl. The next three pictures show the patches on the bowl. You will notice the overflow of superglue on the surface of the bowl in the pictures below. This is fairly easily removed as it dries quickly and does not permeate the surface of the bowl.

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The next series of thirteen photos show the progress of sanding the patches back to the surface of the bowl. In this case I was planning on refinishing the bowl anyway so I sanded the whole bowl back to bare briar. I began by sanding the patches with 240 grit sandpaper and then 320 grit sandpaper. Once the overfill of briar dust and glue was sanded fairly smooth I sanded itwith a medium grit sanding sponge and then a fine grit sanding sponge. I wanted to get rid of the excess fill and also to remove all the scratches in the surface of the bowl. I wet sanded the bowl after this with 1500 and 1800 grit micromesh to ready it for staining. I wiped it down with acetone on a cotton pad. The final pictures show the pipe as it is ready for restaining. You can see that the white putty fills are now dark patches on the bowl. I find that those these dark patches still show up they are easier to blend into the stain and somehow do not seem as intrusive to my eyes as the white patches.

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I decided to stain the pipe with an oxblood aniline stain. I applied it with a cotton swab, flamed it, restained and reflamed it. Once it was dry I hand buffed it with a soft cotton cloth before taking it to the buffer. The next four photos show the pipe after the staining and initial hand buff.

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After staining the bowl I worked on the stem. I sanded it with a fine grit sanding sponge and then worked through the micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit. I wet sanded with the first three grits (1500, 1800 and 2400 grit) and then dry sanded with the remaining grits. I took it to the buffer and buffed the stem and bowl with White Diamond before applying several coats of carnauba wax and then buffing with a soft flannel buff. The next series of four photos show the finished pipe. In my opinion the fills look far better than when I first started on the pipe. They now are tolerable in my sight and I believe this will make a fine yard pipe or rotation extender for some new pipe smoker. It is cleaned and ready to smoke.

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Israeli Made Bent Ball Repaired and Refurbished


This is the second of three pipes that I picked up in a lot from EBay. It included the Richmond, a Comoy’s Everyman, and this BR Israeli made ball. It is stamped BR in large block script on the left side of the shank. On the underside of the shank is stamped ISRAEL. I know nothing of the brand and would love to hear from any of you who might have some information. The stem had tooth chatter and bite marks. It looked like it had also had a rub bite guard on it because the white calcified build up on the top and the bottom of the stem was the same distance into the stem as the bite guard. There was a distinct line where the edge was. The coloured band is slid on to the tenon of the stem. It is a brass wheel with an inlaid acrylic. The finish was shot and the briar was full of fills. The right side was the only clean side on the pipe. The front had a large putty fill at the top near the edge and several on the lower portion, the left side had 3-4 fills and the underside also had two. Most of these were on the smaller side as far as fills go but the one on the front was huge and spanned the width of the bowl. The rim and downward curve of the bowl from the rim back was very tarred and oily. There was a gummy buildup that was like a lava flow down the bowl sides. The bowl was caked with an uneven and oily aromatic smelling cake. The first series of four photos shows the state of the pipe when it arrived on my worktable.

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When I get a bowl that looks like this one I usually start by reaming the bowl. That aromatic, syrupy cherry smelling cake has to go in my opinion. I reamed it with my T handled Pipnet Reaming set. I generally start with a small cutting head and work my way up until I have removed most of the cake. The next two photos show the reaming process.

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Once the bowl was reamed it was time to scrub the exterior with some acetone on cotton pads. I wanted to remove the tars and oils from the rim and bowl sides and also remove the embedded grime and surface dirt on the whole pipe. The next series of three photos show the process of the scrubbing and the look of the bowl once the grime and tars were removed. I would still have to sand the bowl down to remove the remaining buildup once I had washed it with acetone.

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I cleaned out the shank and mortise with cotton swabs and Everclear. I dipped the cotton swab in some of the alcohol that I poured in the lid and used as a bowl for washing the shank. It took a lot of cotton swabs to clean out all the tars and oils in the shank. When I started it smelled like cherry cough syrup and as I added the alcohol it was stronger. The nice thing was that as it got clean the smell disappeared. I used fluffy pipe cleaners to clean out the airway to the bowl. When I was finished I put the stem back on the bowl for sanding so that I would not round any edges on the shank and also to protect the shank from any changes in shape from sanding. I find that when I do this I am more careful around the stem shank union than when I sand without the stem. I used a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge (pink foam sanding sponge in the pictures below). I sanded the entire bowl and spend a significant amount of time on the upper curves of the bowl so that I could get rid of all of the tar remnants. I also sanded the stem with the sanding sponges as well. The next series of four photos show the cleaned bowl and the oxidation and calcification beginning to be removed from the stem.

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When I finished sanding the bowl I wiped it down with an alcohol dampened cotton pad to remove the sanding dust and remaining grime on the briar. Then I laid the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I sanded it with 320 grit sandpaper to get rid of the oxidation and remaining signs of calcification around the button. I also worked on the tooth marks with the sandpaper. The next three photos show the stem as I sanded away the tooth chatter and the oxidation.

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After this initial sanding I decided to wet sand with the 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. The next series of five photos show that process and the ever blackening colour of the stem sans oxidation.

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After the 2400 grit micromesh sanding I used Maguiar’s Scratch X2.0 and rubbed it onto the stem with my fingers and scrubbed it off with cotton pads.

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I then dry sanded it with 3200, 3600 and 4000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I finished sanding with the remaining grits of micromesh from 6000-12,000 and then set the stem aside to work on the bowl.

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I decided to stain the pipe with a Dark Brown aniline stain to see how it would cover the fills. I was a bit worried that they would not pick up the pigment of the stain. I warmed the bowl and then applied the stain with the dauber and then flamed it, restained it, reflamed it and let it dry. The next two photos show the stained bowl and the fills standing out from the stain.

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I put the stem back on the pipe and took it to my buffer. I buffed it with Tripoli and White Diamond to a shine. The fills seemed to just pop from the surface of the bowls! They stood out like eyesores and really bothered me. In the first two photos below you can see them clearly. The stem also showed a bit more oxidation that I would need to address as I finished the pipe.

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I decided to try lightening the colour to see if the fills would blend in any better. I wondered if the high contrast of the dark stain and the light fills made them more visible. I wiped the bowl down with an alcohol dampened cotton pad to remove excess finish and try to blend the fills into the finish. It worked to a degree and the next three photos show the softened colour of the stain. In person the fills were still way to visible for my liking.

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I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil and set it aside while I worked on picking out the fills with my dental pick. The next series of three photos show the cleaned out fills. They are stark white after the removal of the putty. In actuality they are a natural briar colour. I picked them clean and then wiped down the area with the damp pad one final time before I went to work on filling them.

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The next series of seven photos shows the process I use for replacing putty fills. After I have cleaned them out I fill them with briar dust that I have collected. I pack it into the fill holes with the end of my dental pick. I wet the end of the pick so that the briar dust sticks to the end when I dip it in the dust. I then scrape the dust into the hole and pack it in tightly. I work on one hole at a time as I don’t want the dust and superglue mix running all over the pipe. That is a real challenge on a ball shaped bowl. Once I have the dust packed in the hole I drip superglue into the dust. I also add a bit more dust if it is necessary and repack and reglue it. You can see from the photos that the result is a messy patch over the fill hole. The dust and superglue mix hardens quickly and forms a great patch for the holes. Once I had all the holes filled I then sanded the bowl.  

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The next eight photos show the sanded bowl. I use 320 grit sandpaper to sand off the excess superglue and briar dust and bring the surface of the patch smooth with the surface of the bowl. The finished patch is almost black in appearance. In the bare briar bowl the patches show up as black on the light coloured briar. I find that this dark patch actually is easier to blend in with the stain than the lighter putty patches. Once I have sanded the patches smooth I sand the entire bowl with the fine grit sanding sponge so that when I restain it I will be able to get an even coat. After sanding I wipe the bowl down with an alcohol dampened cotton pad to remove any remaining finish and the dust and grit from sanding the bowl. This prepares it for staining.

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For the restain of the bowl I decided I would use an oxblood stain. It is an alcohol based paste stain that I have used in the past with good coverage over the replace fills. I applied with a dauber and rubber is into the surface of the pipe. Once I had the whole pipe covered I flamed it and then rubbed it off with a cotton towel I use for that purpose. The next four photos show the coverage of the stain before I wiped it off.

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Once the stain was dry I buffed it on my buffer using White Diamond. The next four photos show the bowl after buffing. The fills are still dark and stand out to the eye. I have learned through experimenting that I can blend them into the stain a bit better by using a permanent marker and draw grain lines through the fills making them flow with the pattern of the grain on the bowl. The trick it not to have a heavy hand and to try to follow existing graining patterns. The black permanent marker stands out initially on the new stain but after is applied I restain the bowl with another coat of the oxblood stain, flame it and then rub it off.

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The final series of five photos show the finished pipe. The fills are still visible if you look closely but they blend into the surface of the bowl and stain more nicely. I gave the pipe a final buff with White Diamond and then applied several coats of carnauba wax and buffed with a clean flannel buffing pad. The pipe is now ready to smoke and the medicinal cherry smell is gone. Though the fills are far from being invisible they are certainly better and the overall effect is a much nicer pipe.

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A Reborn Piccadilly Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

This little bulldog came to me in a lot of six pipes given to me by a friend. Something about it caught my attention as it seemed to have a classic bulldog shape. It was in pretty rough shape. It is stamped Piccadilly over Italy. It had a thick coat of varnish over the whole bowl and shank. There were also paint flecks on the surface of the bowl and shank. The rim was tarred and black with minor dings in the wood on the outer edge. The rim was chamfered in toward the bowl and also showed some wear and tear. The bowl was pretty clean; as I am pretty sure it had been recently reamed. The stem was badly oxidized and when the pipe came to me the stem would not come out of the shank or even turn. There were no bite or tooth marks on the surface of the stem. The inside of the stem was also tarry and dirty. The first series of three photos shows the state of the pipe when it arrived.

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I put the pipe in the freezer for several hours and then I was able to remove the stuck stem. It was incredible tight and very dirty. The tars seemed to have acted like glue holding the stem in the shank. I cleaned out the stem with pipe cleaners and a shank brush and then put it in a bowl of Oxyclean to soak overnight. I dropped the bowl in an alcohol bath overnight as well. The next series of five photos show the bowl and the stem the next morning after an all-night soak in the baths. You can see that the bowl is clean and incredibly shiny. The alcohol bath removed the paint flecks and the surface grime. The rim tars had softened and were ready to be removed. The varnish coat however was not even touched by the soak in isopropyl. The stem was much better than when it went in to the bath. The oxidation had softened and much of it was removed when I dried off the stem. What remained would take more work.

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I then wiped the bowl and shank down with cotton pads soaked with acetone to try to break up the varnish finish. It took many wipes to cut through the finish and also to cut through the tars on the rim. I also sanded the rim with 320 grit sandpaper to remove the remaining tars and the slight burning around the inner edge of the rim. The next three photos show the result of the sanding on the rim and the wiping down of the bowl. The varnish was untouched – maybe softened a little but it did not give way at all to the acetone.

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More drastic measures were going to be required to remove this thick varnish coat. It was almost acting like a coat of polyurethane. I would have to sand the finish off the bowl if I was going to remove it at all. This required care as I wanted to remove the finish and not change the shape of the bowl and shank. I used a medium grit emery cloth to break through the finish coat. The next series of three photos shows the pipe after the sanding with emery cloth. I also wiped it down again with acetone at this point to clean the finish and see what remained. You can see the stubborn remainders of the topcoat.

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At this point I switched to a medium grit sanding sponge to remove more of the remaining finish. I removed the inserted stinger apparatus and put the stem back in place so that I would not change the angles on the shank where it met the stem when I sanded. It also allowed me to sand the stem and shank simultaneously and to keep the angles sharp and intact. The next three photos show the pipe after sanding with the sponge. I continued to sand until the shiny finish was gone. I then wiped it down with acetone on a cotton pad to clean the surface.

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I sanded the bowl and shank with 320 grit sandpaper and then 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper followed by micromesh pads from 1500-6000 grit before staining the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain thinned 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol. I wanted to give the pipe a stain so I could see if the many fills that were revealed could be camouflaged with the stain coat. My guess was that they would stand out and I would need to pick them out and refill them with superglue and briar dust. I stained and flamed the pipe several times. The next series of six photos shows the results after staining. I would indeed have to rework the fills – at least the large ones.

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I used my dental pick to remove the old fill material – it seemed to be white putty that did not take the stain. The pick removed the white material easily and I wiped the bowl down with an alcohol wetted cotton pad to clean up the dust before refilling the flaw. I then took out my container of briar dust (I collect this from the bowls that I top) and used the dental pick to pack the flaw with briar dust. Once it was packed and overflowing I dribbled drops of superglue into the packed dust. It dries quickly so there is no time to work it or move it. Once I finished the first pack and drip I added more briar dust and redripped the glue. The three photos below show the new fill before I sanded it. The briar dust and glue are very hard and I always over fill the flaw and sand it back to smooth. I do not want any shrinkage in the fill so I work with the material as I spelled out above and over fill the flaw.

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Since the glue and dust fill dries very quickly, it can be immediately sanded. I used some fine grit emery cloth to smooth out the glue and followed that with some 240 and 320 grit sandpaper. The next two photos show the fill after I had sanded it smooth. The fill is now dark and hard. I have found from past experience that the dark fill is much easier to blend in with the stain than the white or pink putty fills.

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After the sanding and preparation of the other fills that I replaced I restained the bowl with the dark brown aniline stain. I flamed it and restained it several times. The bowl is seen both wet and after the flaming in the three photos below. The fill is well blended into the dark stain.

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Once the stain was dry I took the pipe to my buffer and buffed the bowl with Tripoli and White Diamond. The fills were still to visible to my liking so I used a trick I learned somewhere – I used a black permanent marker (Sharpie) and highlighted the grain on the pipe and also stroked in grain through the fills. Once it was finished I stained it one last time with the dark brown stain and then buffed it to a polish. The bowl was finished and I set it aside to work on the stem.

The stem needed quite a bit of work. I sanded it with the medium grit sanding sponge and then with 320 grit sandpaper and 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper. The oxidation was still stubbornly remaining on the saddle and in the slope of the saddle to the flat bit. I used the Bic lighter and moved it over the surface of the stem to burn off the oxidation. I repeated this several times and then sanded the stem with 1500-4000 micromesh sanding pads. I also used the Maguiar’s Scratch X2.0 between grits of micromesh. I also used my Bic lighter to burn more of the oxidation between the grits. Once I was finished I polished the stem with Maguiar’s and then buffed with White Diamond to polish it. I gave it a coat of Obsidian Oil followed by multiple coats of carnauba wax to the stem and bowl. The final pictures show the pipe after this work. In the last photo the area that had the fill repaired is shown to detail how well the fill blends into the finished pipe.

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Reworking a Dr. Plumb Statesman


The second pipe in the lot of three pipes I picked up on EBay was this long shanked billiard. The first one I refurbished and posted about was the no name poker that I wrote about here. This one was stamped Dr. Plumb over London Made over Statesman on the underside of the shank. The sand blast was very nice on it. In fact I like the deep grooves and flow of the blast on the briar. The rim was shot. It had been sanded smooth (may have been smooth originally to match the smooth portions of the bowl). It was also no longer flat. When the pipe was laid down on the rim it rocked in every direction. It was rough and pitted from tapping the pipe out. The bowl was a bit out of round and the previous owner had reamed the inner rim with a knife at an angle that really damaged the inside rim and the roundness of the bowl. The stem had the same white calcification on it as the poker. This one also had teeth marks and dents in it. The slot on the stem was closed with the white calcified material and there was no open airway in the stem. The shank was dirty and clogged and the bowl needed to be reamed in the lower portion. The first four picture show the pipe as it was when it came to me.

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It had the same alcohol bath as the poker and I am including the same photos of that process I included in the previous post. It soaked for two hours and then I took it out and dried the bowls off with a soft cloth. I also soaked the stem in Oxyclean to soften the calcification on the button area.

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In the photo below you can clearly see the flaw in the briar of the Dr. Plumb (the pipe on the right side of the photo). The alcohol bath softened the fill and it fell out of the crevice. It was quite large but not deep. It appears to me that it opened up larger as the pipe was blasted. You can also see in the second photo below the shape of the bowl and rim of the pipe.

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The first thing that I decided to address with regard to this pipe was the rim. I set up my board for sanding the top. I anchored the sandpaper to it. I used a pretty heavy grit for this one because I needed to remove quite a bit of the top to smooth it out and remove the rockiness of the pipe. I used a medium grit emery paper. I hold the pipe flat against the board and sandpaper and sand it in a circular fashion clockwise. I don’t know what the point is of that but that has been my practice for as long as I remember. The next two photos show that process. Once I had the top level once again I sanded it in the same manner using 240 grit sandpaper and then 400 and 600 wet dry sandpaper and water. I finished sanding the top with the micromesh sanding pads from 1500 – 12,000 grit.

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The next photo shows the finished topping of the bowl. The grain is quite nice and will stain well in contrast to the roughness of the blast. The second and third photo below show the repaired fill in the shank. I used briar dust from the topping of the bowl and packed it into the crevice with a dental pick. When it was full I dripped super glue into the dust. Once it was dry I used a wire brush on the shank rather than sandpaper. I wanted to remove the signs of my repair without sanding the fill. The shank looked really good when that job was done. The pipe was basically ready for a coat of brown aniline stain.

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I used my dental pick for a handle by inserting it into the mortise and then used Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye. I diluted it 2 to 1 with Isopropyl alcohol to get the colour I was aiming for. Once I coated it with the stain I flamed the stain to set it in the grain. I repeated this several times to make certain I had stained all the crevices and blast. The first picture below is of the wet pipe. The second is of the bowl after flaming the stain. I light wooden matches and ignite the stain. The alcohol burns off and the pipe then is dry to touch.

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At this point in my refurbishing process I took the bowl to the buffer and buffed the bowl lightly with Tripoli and the repeated it with White Diamond. My goal was to buff of the high areas and make a bit of contrast. I also wanted to buff the rim to make it a bit lighter than the blast and have it match the smooth patch on the bottom of the shank.

I then went to work on the stem. I heated the dents to raise them as much as possible and then sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the remaining tooth chatter and also to remove the calcified area around the button. I cleaned out the stem with pipe cleaners and a shank brush to remove the tars and oils and to open the stem. I used the dental pick to clean out the slot in the button. Once that was done I sanded the stem with a fine grit sanding pad and then progressed through 1500, 1600, and 2400 grit micromesh before scrubbing the stem with Maguiar’s X2.0 scratch polish. I rub it on with a cotton pad and let it dry a bit before rubbing it off. I finished sanding the stem with 3200 – 12,000 grit micromesh pads and then buffed the stem with White Diamond. I coated it with Obsidian Oil and then when it dried I coated it with multiple coats of carnauba wax. I waxed the rim and the smooth part with carnauba and then used Halcyon II wax on the sandblast. I buffed the pipe with a light touch on the cotton buffing wheel to polish and then hand buffed it with a shoe brush. Here is the final product – ready to fire up!

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Once I had posted the pictures of the pipe above when I blew them up to see them more clearly the top of the rim was full of scratches and obviously to me needed more work so I just finished reworking the rim and restaining it. IMG_9265IMG_9264

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