Tag Archives: Replacing putty fills with super glue and briar dust

A Christmas Vacation Pipe from Nashville: A Butz-Choquin Cocarde Geante Plus St. Claude France 1397 Tabac St Michel Paris

Blog by Dal Stanton

Continuing our Christmas Vacation trip in our 20’ R-pod travel trailer, we are now in Nashville, Tennessee, visiting my daughter, son-in-law and 6 1/2-month-old grandson!  The New Year has come and the first pipe on my ‘mobile worktable’ here in Nashville is special.  It is special not only because it’s a gargantuan Billiard which my rather large, 6-foot, 3 inch, son-in-law commissioned to fit his gargantuan hand, but It is also special because it was donated, along with 15 other very nice pipes, to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria.

The benefactor of the 16 pipes, who asked to remain anonymous, is a retired educator in the KC area who wrote to me with an offer to give the pipes to benefit the work in Bulgaria that my wife and I helped to found over a decade ago – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  This was the letter that I received:

Greetings, Dal, from the middle of the USA where it is cold, foggy, and wintery. 

By way of introduction, I am XXX XXX. We have communicated a handful of times via one of the pipe groups on Facebook. Your posts have allowed me to read about your restoration work in support of the Daughters of Bulgaria. I find your pipe restoration work fascinating and your true mission inspiring. 

If you are interested, I have approximately 15 briar pipes, from different makers, I would like to anonymously donate to your work. Most are in good condition but would likely need a clean and polish. Since most would fall short of needing a full restoration, I don’t know for sure whether you would be interested. If you are, I would be happy to send them to you. If pictures would help you decide, I would be glad to take said pictures and send them your way. 

 Warm regards

We exchanged emails and he sent pictures of the pipes.  Several weeks later after the 16 pipes arrived in Bulgaria, I wrote an email with the subject line, “Christmas in August!” and sent this picture of the 16 pipes unwrapped and displayed.   Nice pipes – not a throw-away in the lot!  I decided not to place these pipes in the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! online collection for a time.  The ‘Dreamers’ collection is for pipe men and women to commission pipes to be restored.   I am thankful to this generous pipe man for his gift and support of the Daughters of Bulgaria.  With the New Year here, I’ll be adding these pipes to ‘Dreamers’ section soon!

Last September, after our transition from Bulgaria to living in Golden, Colorado, my daughter and son-in-law, Niko, were visiting us in Golden from their home in Nashville.  Niko is a pipe man and has commissioned pipes from the ‘old man’ before and he was in the hunt again for a new pipe looking through boxes of The Pipe Steward inventory.  This time he had a specific aim – a larger pipe that he could cradle in his larger than normal hands!  Niko is 6 foot, 3 inches, and during college was a pitcher on the baseball team.  He aspired toward playing in the Majors but when an injury came his way, these dreams were put aside.  Niko and I have shared bowls together many times and what I’ve noticed was that Niko’s hands were so large that he would ‘pinch’ the bowl on the end of his fingers rather than cradle the bowl.  With Niko’s request for a larger pipe, the ’16 Pipes for the Daughters’ came to mind recalling the HUGE Butz-Choquin Cocarde Geante Plus (in picture above, top row center).  I pulled out the box and it didn’t take long for Niko to decide to commission the BC.    He also commissioned a Danish Royal Guard Pickaxe, next on the worktable.  With the BC now on the table, some pictures give a closer look. The nomenclature on this pipe is interesting.  On the left shank flank is stamped the traditional mark, ‘Butz-Choquin’ [in cursive offset slightly to the left and slightly at a diagonal, over] Cocarde [over, slightly to the left] GEANTE [over] PLUS. The stem stamping is Butz-Choquin’s recognizable chiseled, ‘BC’.  On the right side of the shank is stamped ST. CLAUDE [ARCHED over] FRANCE [over] 1397 the shape number.  In the second photo below, seen more clearly, is the interesting addition of a pipe shop in Paris. Stamped below the shape number is, TABAC ST. MICHEL [over] PARIS. The history of the Butz-Choquin name is concisely put on Pipephil.eu and its helpful to me for the refresher.

The origin of the brand reaches back to 1858 when Jean-Baptiste Choquin in collaboration with his son-in-law Gustave Butz created their first pipe in Metz (France). Since 1951 Butz-Choquin  is a brand of the Berrod-Regad group (Saint-Claude, France).

Jean Paul Berrod managed the company from 1969 to 2002 when he retired and sold the corporate to Mr Fabien Gichon. Denis Blanc, already owner of EWA, took over the S.A. Berrod-Regad in 2006.

I could not find anything specific in Pipedia about the ‘Cocarde’ line, but a simple search on the internet will show many different shapes available in the Cocarde line from Butz-Choquin.  I did find a shapes chart pictured in the Butz-Choquin Pipedia article that included the 1397 Geante Plus.  Unfortunately, there is no reference to the date of the catalogue.  A quick look at Google Translate gave a translation of the Geante Plus as ‘Giant More’ – which is no surprise.  The photo below sets the Geante Plus apart with the 1397 shape number as unique to this designation.  The Giant Billiard seems to be the unique bearer of this designation.

What’s of interest as well is that this pipe is uniquely stamped with the name, Tabac St. Michel in Paris.  I do a quick search on the internet to discover that it is a tobacco shop still in operation in Paris at 22 Rue Saint-André des Arts.  The picture below is taken from this LINK giving the address and operational hours.  There is no link to a website but looking closely at the front display window, there appears to be pipe related products available.  I can find no more information about this establishment.  Apparently, Butz-Choquin produced some pipes for the Tabac Saint Michel with the shop name stamped on the pipe.  With my curiosity piqued, I send a note to the benefactor pipe man regarding the origin of this pipe – if he had acquired this pipe at the Tabac Saint Michel on a trip to Paris.  We’ll see if he can add some information of interest.

Looking now more closely at the BC Cocarde Geante Plus Billiard on my table, the dimensions of this Giant are, Length: 6 1/8 inches, Height: 2 1/4 inches, Rim width: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber width: 7/8 inches, Chamber depth: 1 3/4 inches with a weight of 2.9 ounces – almost a hefty 3 ounces! The chamber looks well maintained with a very thin cake.  The rim has minor darkening on the aft quadrant from lighting practices.  Besides general cleaning of the ample briar real estate of the stummel, I detect pitting of some fills which need attention.  I take a few pictures to show these. The stem shows no oxidation but tooth chatter and some button biting.  This will be addressed as well.  To begin the refreshing of this Butz-Choquin Cocarde Geante Plus, the chamber is cleaned.  With another picture showing the starting place of the chamber, it appears to be a well maintained with a dime’s width thickness. I use all 4 blade heads of the Pipnet Reaming Kit to begin the cleaning of the mild carbon cake.  Following the reaming, the wall is scraped using the Savinelli Fitsall Tool and then sanded with 240 paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  After wiping the chamber with a cotton pad, the chamber is inspected revealing healthy briar – no heating problems. Transitioning from the chamber to the external briar surface, using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad, the stummel is scrubbed.  A brass wired brush is used to concentrate more on the backside of the rim where it was darkened from lighting from that side. Brass brushes are friendlier to the briar and not as abrasive but helps with the cleaning.The stummel is then transitioned to the sink using warm water and anti-oil liquid dishwashing soap, the internals of the mortise are scrubbed using shank brushes.  The brass wired brush is used again on the rim area.After the cleaning, I look at the stummel.  The finish has generally disappeared over the stummel.  The rim has cleaned up well but as expected, the finish on the aft rim quadrant where most of the scrubbing was needed is lighter.To finalize the internal cleaning, cotton buds and pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 99% are used.  It only takes a couple buds and pipe cleaners to do the job.  I move on!With the cleaning supplies on the table, the airway cleaning of the stem is quickly dispatched with a couple pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 99%.With the general cleaning done, I turn now to the stummel.  Another survey of the bowl and shank show the deterioration of the patches that are now pitted. In the third picture you can also see a few patches of the old finish that have not surrendered during the cleaning process. To prepare to refill and patch the pits, I use a sharp dental probe to dig out the old fill material in each pit.  Next, I use a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 99% to clean the patch areas.  The cleaning with the alcohol is expanded to scrub the whole stummel to remove the last vestiges of the old finish.  This works well.I mix briar dust and thick CA glue to create a briar putty to fill the pits.  After covering the plastic disk with scotch tape to help with clean up, I place some briar dust and CA on the mixing palette.  Using a toothpick, I gradually draw briar dust into the glue and mix it as I go.  When the putty reaches a thickness of molasses, I use the toothpick to trowel a bit of briar putty onto the pits.  To keep the patches in place, I use an accelerator to quicken the curing process of the CA. Starting with the patch on the heel, the flat needle file is used first to file the patch mound down to the briar surface.  A tightly rolled piece of 240 paper follows the file to smooth and blend further.  Then, to conclude this phase, 600 grade paper is used to blend further. The same process is used on the patch on the side of the bowl – file, sanding with 240 and 600. Again, the same process with the patch on the shank. The rim has charred briar around the lower rim lip on the chamber side.  This is primarily on the back of the rim.  To refresh the rim, I sand the inner bevel with 240 paper following this with 600 paper.  This removes the darkened stain on the briar.  It looks much better.To encourage blending of the patches as well as to further clean the rim and bowl surface of small nicks and scratches, I employ sanding sponges.  Sanding sponges are not as invasive as sanding papers and I use them to prepare for micromesh pad sanding.  Starting first with a coarser grade, the rim is ‘topped’ along with sanding the entire stummel – careful to avoid the BC nomenclature on the shank.  Following the coarser grade, medium and then a light grade sponges are used and complete this sanding phase.   Switching now to micromesh pads, I start by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  This is followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  The grain starts emerging very nicely during the micromesh cycles.  It’s looking great. Next, to tease out more of the natural hues of the briar, Mark Hoover’s product, ‘Before & After Restoration Balm’ (www.Lbepen.com) is applied to the briar surface.  To do this, a bit of the Balm is applied to my finger and I work the Balm thoroughly into the surface.  The Balm starts off with a cream-like texture and gradually thickens as it’s applied.  I then put the stummel aside for about 20 minutes for the Balm to be absorbed.When the 20 minutes are completed, I wipe the excess Balm with a microfiber cloth and then buff up the surface.  I like Mark Hoover’s Balm.  It does a great job with the subtleties of the briar hues.Before turning to the stem, I continue the internal cleaning and refreshing of the internals of the stummel by doing a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  This process draws the oils and tars out of the internal briar and freshens the pipe for the new steward.  Kosher salt is used as it doesn’t have an aftertaste like iodized salt.  A wick is formed by pulling and twisting a cotton ball.  The cotton wick helps to draw the oils out. The wick is guided down the mortise into the airway using a stiff piece of hanger wire.Isopropyl 99% is then put in the bowl using a large eye dropper until the alcohol surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes, the alcohol is absorbed and then is topped off once more. I then put the pipe aside and allow the soak to do its thing through the night. Turning now to the stem, I take a few pictures to show the bit tooth chatter and button damage.  The heating method is used initially to address the tooth chatter.  Using a Bic lighter, the bit – upper and lower – is painted with flames to heat the vulcanite and to cause the rubber compound to expand.  As it expands, it reclaims to a degree its original condition.  I place the before and after pictures together for comparison.  The procedure did help to minimize the chatter as the pictures show. Next, I begin the stem restoration by refreshing the button with a flat needle file.  After I started filing, I decided to stop filing and to apply a patch to the button lip.  As I was filing the edge of the lip to redefine it, I decided that the tooth compressions on the lip were too severe and needed to be addressed and the lip built up some before filing.I use black CA glue to spot drop on the lip of the button to build it up.  I do this on the upper and lower button.  An accelerator is also used on the CA not only to quicken the curing time but also to hold the CA glue in place. After the button patches are thoroughly cured, the flat needle file is again used to define and shape the upper and lower button lip.  I’m careful to establish the lip edge on both upper and lower so that the lip is not worn down through sanding.With the button again well defined, 240 paper is used to sand the bit – upper and lower to remove filing scratches and the residual tooth chatter.  The paper is also applied to the button lips to even out and shape after application of the black CA glue.Next, the entire stem is wet sanded with 600 grade paper and this is followed with 0000 grade steel wool.Following the steel wool, the stem is sanded with the full regimen of micromesh pads beginning by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400.  Then, this is followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to the stem to condition and guard against oxidation.  The finished stem has a nice pop to it and the tooth chatter and button repairs look good. The stummel has gone through the night allowing a kosher salt and alcohol soak to continue the cleaning of the internals.  This morning the salt and wick show a bit of soiling, but not much.  After clearing the expended salt in the waste, the chamber is wiped with a paper towel and I blow through the mortise to make sure all the salt crystals are removed. The follow up cleaning with a pipe cleaner and cotton bud confirm that the internals are clean and refreshed.To get a look at the progress, the Butz-Choquin Cocarde Geante Plus stem and stummel are reunited.  What I discover when I try to insert the tenon into the mortise is that it will not fit.  What often happens through the cleaning process is that the mortise will expand minutely, and the fit is too tight for comfort.  I never force stems into shanks.  I’ve learned the hard way that this is the way to add a cracked shank repair to the list.To remedy this is not difficult.  A piece of 240 grade paper is wrapped around the tenon and while pinching it against the tenon with my fingers, the stem is rotated to create the necessary abrasion to decrease the tenon diameter by a bit.  I pinch and rotate the tenon with 240 paper a few times trying the fit after each session.  When it finally starts to insert more easily, I graduate the paper to 600 to smooth the tenon.This worked well.  The stummel and stem are reunited, and the fit is snug but not tight. The BC is looking good.Before starting with the compound process, the BC stem stamp needs refreshing.  The stamping indent is strong and distinct and touching it up with white acrylic paint should not be a problem.After shaking the paint bottle, a bit of paint is applied over the stamping and spread with a toothpick.I then use a cotton pad to daub the wet paint.  This does two things.  The daubing spreads the paint over the lettering and thins the paint.  The daubing also dries the paint quickly.I then use the side of a toothpick to rub over the stamping removing excess dried paint.To finish the job, a pointed cotton bud enables me to clean the lettering more closely.  Finally, I briskly rub a cotton pad over the stamping to shine up the vulcanite and sharpen the stamping.  It looks great!Now on the home stretch.  The rotary tool is mounted with a cotton cloth buffing wheel and set at about 40% full power.  Blue Diamond compound is then applied to the entire pipe. This finely abrasive compound helps to remove very fine blemishes on the briar surface.  After methodically covering the pipe, I use a felt cloth to wipe the pipe removing leftover compound dust in preparation for application of the wax.After changing the cotton cloth buffing wheel, speed remaining the same, carnauba wax is applied to stem and stummel. To complete the recommissioning of the BC, the pipe is given a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine more and to remove any excess wax remaining on the surface.When I began working on this pipe, it already was an attractive pipe not with any major issues.  Repairing the stummel pits with new patches and erasing the tooth chatter damage from the bit and button were the main issues.  The briar on this Butz-Choquin Cocarde Geante Plus covers a lot of real estate with horizontal grain moving along the length of the stummel.  The bird’s eye grain populates the front and aft of the bowl showing the cross-cut perspective of the lateral grain.  This BC giant will cradle nicely in Niko’s hand and filled with his favorite blend will provide years of service and fellowship.  Niko has already claimed the BC from The Pipe Steward Store benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Unlike most of the pipes I restore that are sent to their new stewards by post, this one is hand delivered from my mobile worktable in Nashville and I’m able to share an inaugural bowl with the new steward!  With L. J. Peretti Black Virginia in our bowls and 14 year Glenfiddich in our glasses, the fellowship is good.  Thanks for joining me!


Restoring a Sabatini Extra Quarter Bent Dublin

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I have chosen is one that neither Jeff nor I remember picking up. It could have come to us through a trade for work on a pipe or it could have come from one of an earlier pipe hunts that either Jeff or I did. Either way, the long and short of it is that we have no idea how this one came into our hands. It is a Sabatini in a shape I would call a ¼ bent Dublin. It had a smooth finish on the bowl and a slightly scooped rim top with a variegated Lucite stem. Under grime on the finish it appears that pipe may have had a light brown or tan stain to highlight the grain around the bowl. There were small sand pit fills around the bowl on the front, back and underside. It was stamped on the left side of the shank. The stamping was readable. It read Sabatini [over] Extra. Next to the shank/stem junction on the underside it was stamped Italy. There was also a stylized upper case S on the left side of the saddle stem. It was in decent condition when I brought it to the table. The finish was dirty with grime ground into the briar sides and rim. There was a moderate cake in the bowl and light damage to the rim top and the inner edge of the bowl. The stem was dirty but otherwise in good condition. There were tooth marks and chatter on the top and underside on and near the button and on the button surface itself. I took photos of the pipe before my cleanup work. They tell the story and give a glimpse of the promise that I see in this pipe.  I took a photo of the rim top to show the interior the bowl and the rim top and inner edge. It is moderately caked with some damage to the rim top and edges and some darkening on the back top of the rim. The Lucite stem is in decent condition with tooth marks on the top and underside near the button.   I took a photo of the left side of the shank to show the stamping. The stamping is readable in the photos below and is as noted above. The stem has a stylize upper case S on the left side. I took the stem off the bowl and took a picture of the parts of the pipe to give a sense of size.I turned to Pipephil’s site to see if I could find out any information on the brand (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-s2.html). There was little there to go on however it appears that the Italian crafted pipes were distributed by the US distributor Wenhall Pipes LTD. I did a screen capture of the information that was there.I checked on Pipedia and came up empty handed on the Sabatini brand but then turned to the article on Wenhall Pipes Ltd (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Wenhall). I found that Wenhall Pipes Ltd. was a distribution company out of New York City and distributed some well-known pipes. I quote the article below

Wenhall (USA)

By the end of the 1970’s Wenhall approached Michael Kabik and Glen Hedelson, at that time operating from a farm house in Glen Rock, Maryland to create a line of freehands called Wenhall. The situation was favorable, because Kabik & Hedelson had ended their cooperation with Mel Baker of Tobak Ltd. to produce the famed Sven-Lar freehands shortly before.

Upon Wenhall’s offer the partners got a bank loan and set up a studio of 2000 square feet in a fairly new industrial park in Bel Air, Maryland and took on the name Vajra Briar Works. Wenhall initially wanted 500 pipes a week! But Kabik & Hedelson doubted that they could move that much product and told them they would produce 250 pipes per week. Happily, some of the old crew from Sven-Lar joined them at Vajra Briar Works, and thus they rather quickly met the production demands.

Furthermore during this time, Wenhall requested to create a line of pipes consisting of 12 different shapes. The line was called The Presidential and, while they repeated the same 12 shapes for this series, each one was freehand cut. Although they came up with interesting designs, mainly developed by Hedelson, especially Kabik was never really happy with the line or the concept, but, by this time, they had nine people on full-time payroll.

The stint with Wenhall lasted a couple of years, at which time they asked them to join Wenhall in a move to Miami, Florida. But by this time Kabik and Hedelson felt very uncomfortable with the owners of Wenhall and decided that they’d rather close the shop than make the move. Time proved that decision very wise, as Wenhall folded shortly after the move. All the same they had to close Vajra, but scaled down to the two of them and moved the operation to the farm house Glen was currently living in…

The next lines of the article are the ones that got my attention. When I first saw the pipe in the repair box I immediately thought it reminded me of a Barontini and sure enough there is a possible link noted below.

Wenhall also distributed pipes from Italy. By unconfirmed information Gigi and Cesare Barontini were mentioned as suppliers.

Armed with that information I decided to begin my work on the pipe by addressing the damage to the rim top and edges. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean off the rim top and the inner edge of bowl. It took some time but I was able to bring it back to a pretty clean condition.  I reamed the pipe with a PipNet reamer and cut back the cake back to the bare briar. I cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I sanded the walls as a final touch with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a dowel. The interior walls of the pipe looked free of burn or heat damage. To me that is always a relief.  I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with a tooth brush and undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. I find that the soap cuts the grime and grease on the briar and leaves the surface clean and easier to work with. I rinsed it off with warm water and dried it with a cotton towel.  I filled in all of the putty filled flaws around the bowl with briar dust and clear super glue. Once it cured I sanded them smooth with 220 grit sandpaper.  I cleaned out the shank and airway in the shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I was surprised that I also was removing some brown stain from the end of the shank.I polished the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding it with 1500-12000 grit pads. After each pad I wiped the briar down with a damp cloth. This served a dual purpose of both removing the sanding debris and the dust that had accumulated in the rustication patterns around the bowl and shank.   I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. It looks quite nice at this point.   With that done the bowl was finished other than the final buffing. I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. I filled in the tooth marks and rebuilt the button with clear super glue and set it aside to cure. Once the repairs cured I used a piece of 220 grit sandpaper to clean them up and blend them into the surface of the acrylic. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I used some Rub’n Buff Antique Gold to touch up the S logo on the stem. I rubbed it on and pressed the product into the stamp. I rubbed it off with a cotton pad.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine.   I am excited to finish this Sabatini Extra Bent Dublin. I put the pipe back together and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I hand buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. It is fun to see what the polished bowl looks like with the grain popping through on the bowls sides and rim top. Added to that the polished variegated orange Lucite stem was beautiful. This smooth finished Dublin turned out to be a nice looking pipe that feels great in my hand. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 ½ inches, Height: 2 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 67grams/2.36oz. It is a beautiful pipe and one that will be on the rebornpipes store in the Italian Pipe Makers section soon. If you are interested in adding it to your collection let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next pipeman or woman. 


Refreshing a Beldor Studio Mini Churchwarden Paneled Apple of Saint Claude

Blog by Dal Stanton

The Beldor Studio on my worktable now came to me from what I call the French Lot of 50.  I was tipped off by a fellow pipe man friend in Romania who acquired a L. J. Peretti Oom Paul from me.  He saw 5 different lots of pipes on the French eBay auction block and sent me a note. My thinking is that one of the Lots might be a good addition to my online collection, For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!, where pipes may be commissioned by those who can see the potential of unrestored pipes.  The different lots were from the same seller in Paris and his approach to selling these lots was like throwing bloody chum in shark infested waters!  Each lot was in a pile of pipes with different angles of the pile pictured in the lot’s listing.  Studying each of the piles was exhilarating trying to see markings on the pipes and characteristics that might reveal treasures in the mix.  I finally chose to bid on one of the French Lots because it had a very interesting Cutty shape (Restoration here: A Cutty Tavern Pipe – Recommissioning a Historical Classic as a Gift for a Steward of History) sprawled across the top of the pile and several other very, very interesting candidates.  The other characteristic of the French Lot of 50 that drew my attention were several pipes brandishing horn stems – very much pointing toward WW2 and post era pipes when rubber was scarce, and horn became a predominant replacement for stems.  With some effort, I found the Beldor Studio buried in the middle of the pile – one arrow on the inverted stummel and the other on the end of the stem barely visible.  I bid on the French Lot of 50 and the bid prevailed.  It did not take long for the package to come from Paris reaching me in Sofia, Bulgaria.When the pipes arrived, I did my normal cataloging of each pipe and promoting their arrival on various Facebook Pipe groups and many of these pipes have already been restored and with new stewards.  The Beldor Studio was waiting for Daniel to find in the online collection, For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!  I received Daniel’s inquiry about commissioning the Beldor and he identified himself as the son of a colleague and acquaintance of mine in Pennsylvania!  Daniel expressed his enjoyment of reading the write ups on the restoration of pipes and that he was interested in the Beldor Studio.  I sent this description of the Beldor to help Daniel with his decision:

I appreciate your interest!  The pipe you are interested in is a sweet pipe.  I called it a small Churchwarden, or it could possibly be categorized as a ‘Pencil Stem Panel’.  It’s a petite size and the paneled bowl is very nice.  I haven’t worked on a pipe with this marking before so I can’t say at this point anything about the collectability of a ‘Beldor Studio’ so we’re looking primarily at the pipe itself.

I’m glad that in the end, after giving Daniel an estimate of the final valuing of the pipe, he agreed and the Beldor Studio went into The Pipe Steward queue of pipes that benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.   Here are pictures of the Mini Churchwarden or Pencil Stem that got Daniel’s attention with a measurement of 7 1/2 inches in length and the bowl height of 1 1/8 inches.The only markings on the pipe are on the left shank flank with these stampings: ‘BELDOR’ [over] ‘STUDIO’.  The stem is stamped with a circle.This is one of those frustrating pipes that are seen in many places on the internet for sale, but not much is known.  The nomenclature on the Beldor Studio gives no indication of country of manufacturer (COM) but it becomes evident that the origins are French and from the pipe making center, Saint Claude.   Pipephil.eu confirms the French origins.  The lettering of ‘Beldor’ is the same with the circle stem stamp being the same.Pipedia only confirms a French origin and adds different lines with the Beldor name: Maker unknown; series: De Luxe, Golf, Western.  The Saint Claude origin in France simply comes from a Beldor pipes that are listed for sale on various sites with the nomenclature on these pipes include Saint Claude.  Here is one such example (LINK):I searched for some connection to an actual manufacturer in Saint Claude and could find none.  As a ‘hail Mary’ I sent some emails to pipe shops located in Saint Claude to see if any might have more information.  We’ll see what if I receive any helpful responses!  I did confirm the Beldor ‘Studio’ as the specific line for the Mini Churchwarden with this offering on a French eBay listing that described the center pipe as “BELDOR STUDIO BRUYERE SAINT CLAUDE”.I now take a closer look at the pipe on my worktable.  I like the petite panel bowl mounted on the pencil stem.  It has Churchwarden proportions but on the miniature.  The diminutive bowl would work well when one doesn’t have a lot of time to enjoy a bowl.  For me, I’m not a strong, nicotine ‘kick in your pants’, tobacco person, but I do like trying stronger tobaccos but in smaller portions.  This bowl would be perfect for this.  The former steward used this pipe as the chamber indicates some cake build up.  The beveled paneled rim has a heavy lava flow caked on it and this needs to be cleaned and refreshed.The hexagonal paneled apple bowl is very attractive.  It is dirty with grime and reveals normal scratches and scuffs from wear but reveals some genuinely nice grain. The pencil stem has some oxidation and tooth chatter on the bit.To begin the recommissioning of this Beldor Studio Mini Churchwarden, I remove the stinger and put aside for safe keeping.  I’m not a stinger fan but I’ll clean it and replace it to send to the new steward to decide what to do with itNext, using one pipe cleaner wetted with isopropyl 95%, the stem’s airway is clean.I then add the Beldor Studio stem to a soak of Mark Hoovers ‘Before & After Deoxidizer’ (www.ibepen.com) along with several other pipes in the queue.After a few hours soaking in the Deoxidizer, the Beldor stem is removed from the Deoxidizer and after squeegeeing the liquid off the pipe with my fingers, I use cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95% to wipe away the raised oxidation.  A few pipe cleaners wetted with isopropyl 95% are also used to clear away Deoxidizer from the airway.To help condition the vulcanite stem, paraffin oil is applied and rubbed into the surface.  The stem is put aside to allow the oil to be absorbed. Turning now to the paneled bowl, I start by reaming the small chamber.  I use only the smallest blade head in the Pipnet Reaming Kit to clear the cake.  Following this, the Savinelli Fitsall Tool scrapes further on the chamber walls.  Finally, I sand the chamber with 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen. After wiping the chamber with a cotton pad, the chamber appears to be healthy – no heating problems detected.Transitioning now to the externals of the stummel, the picture above shows the thick lava flow caked on the rim that needs to be cleaned as well as the entire bowl.  Using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap, I begin using a cotton pad to scrub the stummel’s surface as well as the rim.  The rim also requires the brass bristled brush and the sharp edge of my Winchester pocketknife.  I use the knife’s edge carefully to scrape the black on the rim.  The brass brush also helps as the lava starts to break apart.  In time, I move to the kitchen sink to continue the cleaning using shank brushes and anti-oil liquid dish soap to work on the mortise internals.  After a thorough rinsing with warm water, I go back to the worktable and take a picture showing the results of the cleaning.The rim cleaned well but the front left rim panel section has a burn scar that will require additional attention.Another result of the cleaning was to reveal a thin finish on the Beldor stummel.  The next three pictures show blotches of shiny and dull areas.  The shiny indicates old finish hanging on, whereas the dull is raw briar.  The second picture shows a small fill that may need to be addressed. While I am focused on the residue of the old finish, I decide to address it now.  I first used alcohol and a cotton pad to see if it would break down the residue of finish. It did not.  I then use acetone first with a cotton pad, which worked but slowly.  Next, I used acetone with the gentle abrasion of 000 steel wool. This did the trick.  I was able to remove all the old finish which is a good starting point.  I take a couple of pictures to show the clean stummel. Backtracking now in my normal cleaning cycle, I now focus on the internal cleaning of the mortise and airway.  I use only one pipe cleaner and cotton bud wetted with isopropyl 95% to discover that the internals are clean.  I move on!Earlier I identified a fill on the right side of the stummel.  Using a sharp dental probe, I test the fill and find that it has shrunk and unstable.  I dig out the old fill to apply a new patch to the pit.After wiping the area with alcohol to clean it, using regular CA glue, I spot drop some glue on the pit.  I then cover it with briar dust that helps blend after the sanding of the patch area.  I put the stummel aside to allow the patch to cure.With the stummel on the sideline, I turn to the Mini Warden stem which is in particularly good shape.  There is almost no tooth chatter on the bit.  There is one small compression on the upper bit that needs addressing.I also detect some oxidation remaining on the end of the stem on the shank side. Using 240 paper, the upper and lower bit is sanded to remove any lasting tooth chatter and the one compression.The 240 paper is also deployed on the end of the stem where oxidation was detected.  I’m careful to avoid the Beldor ‘O’ stamping on the stem.To be on the safe side, I cover the stem stamping with masking tape to protect it.  Next, 600 grade paper is used to wet sand the entire stem.  Following this, 000 steel wool finishes further.Next, the full regimen of micromesh pads is used on the stem.  To begin, I wet sand with pad 1500 to 2400 and follow with dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of three pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to the stem to condition it and to protect it from oxidation in the future.To further condition the stem and to work on the area of the Beldor ‘O’ stem stamping to clean it up after it having been covered to protect from sanding, I use Before & After Fine and Extra Fine Polishes. Starting with the Fine polish, I apply it on the stem after putting a small amount on my fingers. I work it into the vulcanite and allow it to absorb for 15 to 20 minutes. After this time, I wipe off the excess polish with a paper towel, continuing to work the polish in as I do this. Next, in the same way, the Extra Fine Polish is applied.  After 20 minutes, the excess is removed, and the stem is buffed with a microfiber cloth.Turning again to the stummel, the small patch on the right panel has cured.I first use a flat needle file to file down the patch mound then it is further smoothed and blended with 240 grade sanding paper.Next, I address the dark scorched areas of the rim.  The internal edge of the rim is a ring of black from the burning.  The next two pictures show the condition of the rim. I use the 240 paper to clean the rim and to blend the different contours.  The rim is beveled and tapers downward toward the chamber.  I go with this bevel to help mask and blend the burn mark that is on the front left panel. I follow with 600 grade paper further smoothing and blending.With the sanding and blending utilizing the tapering of the rim, the rim definition has been blurred.  To redefine the hexagonal rim, I do a light topping using only 600 grade paper.  The picture below shows how the rim was reestablished and a defined bevel line.  I like it!Next the stummel is sanded with the full regimen of micromesh pads from 1200 to 2400, which is wet sanded, then dry sanded from 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000. Next, to tease out the rich briar hues, Before & After Restoration Balm is used.  After applying some on my fingers, the Balm is worked into the surface starting with a cream-like texture then gradually thickening after it is worked into the briar. After applied, I put the stummel aside for a few hours for the Balm to do its thing.  The picture below is of this period.  Afterwards, the stummel is buffed with a microfiber cloth to remove the excess Balm and to raise the shine.With the stem and stummel reunited, Blue Diamond compound is applied to the entire pipe with a cotton cloth buffing wheel set at about 40% full power on the Dremel.After the application of the compound is finished, the pipe is buffed with a felt cloth to remove the compound dust that is left behind.Before applying wax, I have a couple additional projects to do.  The shank on this Mini Churchwarden is very thin and makes me nervous about it being cracked.  To guard the shank as well as add a bit more class to this sharp looking pipe, I fit the shank with a brass shank cap. The cap acts as a band as well as curling over the shank facing to serve as a spacer. I find a fitting that will work.  I apply a small amount of CA glue to the inside of the fitment and use a toothpick to paint the inside circumference of the ring. After placing the cap partially over the shank to start it, I use the stem itself, to press the cap into place.  This serves to create the perfect symmetry with the shank cap butting against the stem facing.  This helps close any gaps that may exist between the two.  The shank cap looks great – I like it! The next project is to try to fill the ‘O’ stem stamp with white acrylic paint to freshen it.  My concern is that the stamping is no longer defined enough to hold a full circle.I place white acrylic paint over the stamping and spread the paint with a toothpick.I then tamp the wet paint with a cotton pad to remove the excess and quickening the drying process.I then use a toothpick’s flat edge to gently scrape the dried paint to achieve an almost whole ‘O’.  It looks good.I use 000 steel wool to clean up the stinger and reinsert it into the nickel tenon.  Tarn-X Tarnish Remover gives a new shine to the brass shank cap.  I use the cotton pad to apply the polish.Finally, with the full ensemble united, I apply carnauba wax with the Dremel.  Using another cotton cloth buffing wheel with the Dremel set at 40% of full power, wax is applied to the stem and stummel.  Afterwards, I use a microfiber cloth to give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine.I am pleased with the results of this Beldor Studio Mini Churchwarden.  The hexagonal paneled bowl gives an elegant presentation as it is mounted on the subtly curved pencil stem.  I like the brass shank cap – it adds a bit of class to a very nicely flowing pipe.  Daniel commissioned this pipe and he will have the first opportunity to acquire it from The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

French Made Bruyere Garantie Bent Billiard from Burgas

Blog by Dal Stanton

I received Gary’s email when he and his wife were visiting the Bulgarian city of Burgas on the Black Sea coast. Ever since I started restoring pipes, Gary, my colleague living and working in Plovdiv, has kept his eyes open during his travels. He’s found some very nice pipes for me. The two he found at the antique shop on the main walking street in Burgas were possibilities so he landed them for me. The larger bent billiard in the pictures he sent is on my work table now. I chose it because I’m hoping for a project that doesn’t appear to be in too much need!The only marking on the pipe is stamped on the left shank and it says, “BRUYERE” over “GARANTIE” which I’ve understood as a rather generic marking used by several manufacturers from different continental countries in Europe.  On a hunch, I looked up the generic marking in Wilczak and Colwell’s manual, “Who Made That Pipe?” and was surprised to find a semi specific listing: UNK France.  With an ‘unknown’ maker, but because of the spelling, they identify the French origins.  Odds are, if from France, then most likely the place of origin is Saint-Claude.  After receiving the pipes from Gary, I put the French made, 3/4 Bent Billiard on my work table in Sofia, and take these pictures to fill in the gaps. The grain on this larger stummel is outstanding – much motion and flow.  Standing out is the bull’s eye wraparound knot grain perfectly situated to highlight the elbow where shank and stummel meet and blend (pictured above).  The stummel surface has several dents and some cuts from normal wear and grime collection.  The rim has some oil residues but like the stummel surface, has its share of normal wear dents.  The cake in the chamber is very light and the remnants of the last smoke are still evident – a blend of sorts (pictured below)!  The stem shows light oxidation and tooth chatter primarily on the lower bit.  The button and slot look good.  To start the restoration and cleanup of the Bruyere Garantie Bent Billiard, after inserting a pipe cleaner through the stem, I put the stem in the Oxi-Clean solution to soak, working on the oxidation.  With stummel in hand, I clean out the old tobacco from the chamber with the pipe nail tool.With the Pipnet kit, I ream the cake to the briar for a fresh start.  I use the two smaller of the 4 blades available in the kit and follow this by using the Savinelli pipe knife to fine tune the ream by strategically scraping the chamber wall.  To clean the chamber wall, I wrap 240 grit paper around a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber and then use a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to remove the carbon dust.  Looking at the cleaned chamber, it looks good. With the chamber finished, I turn to cleaning the internals of the stummel with cotton swabs and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  It does not take long and pipe cleaners and swabs are coming out clean. Now turning to the cleanup of the surface of the stummel, I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap with cotton pads and a bristled toothbrush to clean the grime off the briar surface.  Murphy’s does a good job cleaning wood of grime and old finish.  I rinse the stummel with tap water careful not to flood the internals with water.  I inspect the rim and surface with things cleaned up and take some close-ups of dents and marks showing signs of wear – a well-smoked and liked pipe.  The pictures show the cleaning and surface inspection. To address the stummel rim and surface, I use a medium grade sanding sponge to remove as many of the imperfections as possible.  I use this sanding sponge to perform a gentle topping of the rim to remove the dents.  I follow with a light grade sanding sponge and I also freshen the internal rim bevel using first 240 grit paper followed by 600.  The clear majority of the nicks and dents have been removed.  Those that remain will be an ongoing testimony of the years this pipe has spent serving his steward! The pictures show the progress. I’m ready now to fine-tune the stummel by sanding with micromesh pads 1500 to 1200.  I first wet sand using pads 1500 to 2400.  After completing the wet sanding, I detect some fills that have softened.  This probably resulted from the water on the stummel and the fill material was only water based.  Two were on the rim and a few more on the side of the stummel.  Using a sharp dental probe, I dig out the old fill that at this point has the texture of wet clay.  Pictured is the completion of the first 3 micromesh pads and the beginning of a small detour – such as life!  The detour requires that I mix briar dust and super glue to make a more durable fill than what I just removed.  After filling the holes, I’ll then need strategically to re-sand the patches and return to the micromesh pads.  While I’m at it, I detect a few more fills and clean them out.  These ‘factory fills’ are normal and reveal that one seldom finds a perfect block of briar without some imperfections.  The most challenging patch will be the rim.  I begin by wetting a cotton pad with isopropyl 95% and wipe down the stummel – I want it clean and free of residue fill material.  I then use a pipe nail and scoop out an enough briar dust on an index card that serves as my mixing pallet.  I then add a small puddle of regular superglue next to the briar dust and use a toothpick to begin mixing the putty by drawing dust into the puddle of glue.  When the consistency of the putty is about like molasses, I use a flat dental spatula to apply the briar dust putty to the holes.  I leave excess putty over each patch in anticipation of sanding it down flush to the briar surface.  I use an accelerator spray to shorten the curing time for the patches.  It takes me two batches to fill the holes.  The pictures show the progress. I decide to let the stummel rest a bit as the patches cure and work on the stem.  I remove the stem from the Oxi-Clean bath that it’s been soaking in for several hours.  The oxidation has ‘surfaced’ on the vulcanite stem and I use 600 grit paper and wet sand the stem to remove the oxidation after remounting the stem and stummel with the plastic disc separator.  This helps avoid shouldering the stem.  After completing the sweep with 600 grit, I look at the lower bit where there was tooth chatter and some dents.  I use 240 grit paper to sand these out.  One dent was refusing so I dropped a bit of Black CA glue on it and applied some accelerator spray to cure it quickly.  After a bit, I returned to the patch with 240 grit paper to smooth it and blend it with the vulcanite.  I follow using 600 grit sanding paper and then finish this phase by buffing the entire stem with 0000 steel wool.  The pictures show the progress. With the stem in front of me, I decide to move it to the micromesh phase.  Using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stem. When I complete this first cycle I realize that I forgot the clean the internals of the stem!  Call me anxious….  Holding the stem with paper towel, I gingerly use pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol 95% and then with cotton swabs I clean out the filter cavity.  Thankfully, the stem was in pretty good shape.  Back to the micromesh process.  I follow this by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  I follow each cycle of 3 pads with an application of Obsidian Oil which deepens the color and revitalizes the vulcanite.  The pictures show the progress – looking good! With the stem restoration complete, I turn to the stummel again.  I use a flat needle file to begin the process of bringing the excess briar dust putty down to the briar surface.  I start with the rim patches and move around the stummel.  After using the flat needle file, I use 240 grit paper on each patch to bring it down to the surface.  I finish the sanding and blending with 600 grit paper.  At this point, I notice some air pockets in some of the patches.  I spot drop a small bit of superglue in each and spray it with accelerator.  After a few minutes, I sand down the superglue fills very quickly with the flat needle file, then 240, then 600.  I take pictures along the way. With my day ending, I want to clean the stummel internals further using a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I fill the stummel with kosher salt and I cover the bowl and give it a shake to displace the salt.  I use kosher salt and not iodized salt as it does not leave an iodine aftertaste.  I stretch/twist a cotton ball and feed it into the mortise acting as a wick to draw out the oils during the soak.  I situate the stummel in an egg carton and using a large squeeze dropper, I fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until filled.  I wait a few minutes as the alcohol is quickly drawn down.  I top it off again with alcohol.  I turn out the lights – another day complete. The next morning, the kosher salt and alcohol soak did its job.  The salt and cotton wick are discolored indicating a not too dirty stummel giving up more gunk.  I thumped the stummel on my palm (not table!) and the expended salt goes into the waste.  I wipe the chamber with a paper towel and run bristle brushes of differing sizes in the chamber, through the mortise and draft hole to remove all the salt.  It’s looking good and the new steward of this Bent Billiard will enjoy a sweeter taste as a result.  To get a bird’s eye view of the project, I rejoin the finished stem with the now patched stummel.  The more I study the grain on this pipe, the more I like it – especially the lower horizontal grain encompassing the stummel’s heel then transitioning through the elbow of the shank merger.  A very pleasing visual as one cradles the ample Billiard bowl in his (or her!) palm. Imagination aside, time to get back to the stummel micromesh process.  Since I  had already completed the first 3 micromesh pads, I wet sand with these again, but focus on the rim and stummel patched areas.  After wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, I apply a stain stick to the patch on the stummel.  Because of the sanding, this area is lighter than the surrounding patch of briar.  I apply some stain, let it dry, and wipe it with a bit of alcohol on a cotton pad to blend.  Then, I continue with dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and then finishing with pads 6000 to 12000.  I am amazed at how a natural grain can achieve such a gloss through this process – wax is not needed!  To me, the difference between the character of this gloss and the ‘gloss’ of an acrylic finish is the difference between a high-end HD flat screen and a so, so TV – color, but not the same sharpness or reality.  When one looks at grain through an acrylic finish, you’re looking through a film creating the shine not the grain itself, as is with a natural grain gloss – the real deal.  The stains we apply then, do not create a film over the wood but colors it to help hide imperfections, etc., – a big difference.  The pictures show the source of my amazement and reflections. With the micromesh pad cycles completed, I confer with my wife about the finish.  Yes, I often ask my wife’s opinion at this point because of her eye for beauty and colors.  Originally, I had been thinking of keeping with the original color bent – toward more reddish tones.  After our conference, because of the beauty of this grain as is, I will stay with brown, leather tones consistent with the natural grain.  I had avoided the nomenclature during the sanding processes and there was still residue of the older color.  I use acetone (yes, the yellow label is acetone in Bulgarian!) with a cotton pad and work on removing the reddish finish.  I’m not totally successful, but I don’t think what is left will make a difference. To stay in the brown/leather tones, I decide to mix 3 parts Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye with 1 part alcohol with a large bulb dropper.  I want the finish on the darker brown side to blend the briar dust putty patches, but light enough so that the grain is showcased.  To prepare the stummel, I first wipe it down with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean the surface.  After mounting a narrowed cork into the shank as a handle, I warm the stummel with a heat gun to expand and open the briar allowing it to absorb the dye more efficiently.  I then liberally apply the dye mixture to the stummel with a folded pipe cleaner seeking full coverage.  With a lit candle, I then ‘fire’ the stummel, igniting the alcohol in the dye which sets the stain.  After a few minutes, I repeat the process concluding with firing the stummel.  I then put the stummel aside to rest for several hours before continuing.  The pictures show the progress. After several hours, I’m ready to unwrap the crust encasing the stummel resulting from the fired dye.  I mount a felt buffing wheel on the Dremel, set the speed of the Dremel at the lowest, and use Tripoli compound’s abrasive characteristic to remove the crust.  I first purge the wheel with a tightening wrench, to remove old compound and to soften the felt wheel.  I rotate the felt buffing wheel over the surface without a lot of downward pressure.  The speed of the Dremel and the compound do the work.  To reach the difficult angle between the shank and bowl, I switch to a smaller felt wheel.  After finishing with the Tripoli compound, I wet a cotton cloth with alcohol and wipe down the stummel to both lighten the aniline stain and to blend it.  Following this, I switch to a cloth buffing wheel and turn the speed up from 1 to 2, approximately 40% of full speed, the fastest being 5, and apply Blue Diamond compound in the same manner as the Tripoli.  I notice a few bright spots on the surface as well as around the nomenclature where the stain did not set consistently.  I applied a bit of black Fine Point Sharpie Pen and darker stain sticks to blend the areas.  I go over these areas again with the Blue Diamond buffing wheel to blend the spot staining.  It looks good. I then buff the stummel with a flannel cloth to clean it of compound dust before applying the carnauba wax.  Switching to another cotton cloth buffing wheel dedicated to carnauba wax, I reattach the stem to the stummel and apply the wax at the same 40% speed.  I apply 2 cycles of carnauba to the surface and stem, then I switch to a clean Dremel buffing wheel and buff the pipe yet again.  Finally, I give the pipe a rigorous hand-buffing with a micromesh cloth.

This French, probably Saint-Claude, made Bruyere Garantie Bent Billiard is stunning – the grain is beautiful.  As I mentioned before, I am drawn to the heel of the stummel, at the elbow where stummel and stem meet – the knot grain perfectly situated there is amazing and says something about the eyes and judgment of the pipe maker who chose the briar block and could see what it would become.  I’m very pleased with the results of this pipe.  If you would like to adopt this classic Bent Billiard, look at my store front at The Pipe Steward.  The sale of pipes benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria, an organization we work with helping women (and their children) who have been sexually exploited and trafficked.  Thanks for joining me!  


Brandy Bent Unmarked – another ‘Hole in the Wall’ Find

Blog by Dal Stanton

The Brandy before me now was a very nicely bundled pipe when I recently purchased the Stanwell Silver Mount which I’ve already restored (See HERE).  I landed these pipes at the treasure trove I call the ‘Hole in the Wall,’ an antique shop in the center-city of Sofia, Bulgaria.  My sites were on the Stanwell which was the prize, with its silver and class, but when I saw the Brandy, I plucked it out of the basket to bundle with the Stanwell – hopefully to land a more favorable purchase price for the pair.  The Stanwell and Brandy came home with me that day, and the picture I took below commemorated that day’s finds.  The next picture shows the results of the Stanwell Silver Mount’s restoration – a beautiful, dressy pipe.brandy1 brandy2The Brandy drew my attention as well because the bowl is a significant presence in the palm as I cradled the expansive bowl.  When I first saw it, I thought it might be a Volcano shape because of the hefty, expansive base of the stummel and the tightly restrained cone moving upwardly culminating in the rim. Yet, looking at Pipedia’s Pipe’s Chart by Bill Burney (see below), my later thoughts were confirmed that this indeed is a Brandy – actually, the first in my collection.  The stummel measures 1 3/4 inches in diameter at the broadest point of the ‘brandy glass’ bulge and the stummel tightens to the rim which measures 1 1/4 inches.  The height of the stummel is 1 7/8 inches.  This bowl is nicely shaped and proportioned – I like it!brandy3I take more pictures when I take the Brandy out of the ‘Help Me!’ basket and place him on my work table.brandy4 brandy5 brandy6 brandy7 brandy8With the stem in the Oxi-Clean, I continue with the clean-up of the stummel internals using cotton swabs and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  After moderate resistance, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs started coming out cleaner.  Later, I will give the bowl a kosher salt/alcohol soak to further clean and freshen the internals and readying it for a new steward.brandy12With the internals cleaned with the frontal approach, I now look at the external surface.  I first scrub the rim and entire stummel with undiluted Murphy’s Oil to see if it makes much of a dent on the cloudy finish.  I have my doubts.  Well, after scrubbing the surface with Murphy’s Soap and I can see my reflection on the surface, I know that I’m dealing with an acrylic finish – the candy wrapper finish.  For manufacturers of pipes that put this kind of finish on a pipe, I can only think of two reasons to do so – it is a more cost-effective mass application of shininess – a chemically produced sheen that takes minimal time and man-hours, and to hide imperfections in the briar.  Switching to acetone to remove the finish, first, I use cotton pads, then the more persuasive help of 0000 steel wool.  The finish comes off with little effort and I begin to see why the finish is dark – there are several fills that the dark stain was masking.   I have no problems with darker hues to mask fills and imperfections, but I do not like the acrylic shine finish.  Pictures show the progress and the surface revealed.brandy13 brandy14 brandy15Before dealing with the fills, I sand the outer surface of the stummel and rim with a course grade sanding sponge to remove the superficial nicks and damage.  This works well.  I follow with a medium grade then a light grade sanding sponge to smooth and clean the surface of imperfections.brandy16I take a close look at the fills on the surface of the stummel and scrape them with a sharp dental probe to find out whether they are solid or if they are in danger of pitting.  Generally, they seem to be in good condition.  I do detect one pit and I drop-spot some super glue and apply an accelerator to cure the glue rapidly.  When the superglue is fully cured, I use a flat needle file to file it down near to the briar surface, then I use a rolled piece of 240 grit paper to sand it down to the surface, removing all the excess glue.  Then I use 600 grit paper just to smooth the surface of the patch.brandy17 brandy18Sanding with the sanding sponges removed most of the dents I detected earlier on the rim.  I want to freshen the inwardly sloped bevel to improve the lines of the rim.  I first cut an inner bevel with a rolled piece of coarser 120 grit paper.  Then I follow this by using 240 and 600 grit paper over the entire surface of the rim from the lower inner lip to the higher rim edge.  The result is a more tapered and sloped bevel and a crisper rim edge as the lower bevel blends into the upper slope.  The pictures show the progress.brandy19Next, I wet sand the stummel with micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and when I complete this cycle, what I see I am not expecting.  Every fill on the stummel had softened and some had come out.  Apparently, the fill was not glue based, but simply a colored wood putty that would sit underneath the acrylic finish.  I haven’t seen anything like this up to this point.  Oh well….  I take the sharp dental probe and continue to dig out all the old filler putty and clean the holes left behind.  This restoration is taking an unexpected turn and it will take a bit of time to fill and sand down each of these 16 fill spots.  With briar dust and superglue, I mix a batch of putty and apply putty to each hole.  I leave excess over each fill area to be able later to sand each fill down flush to the briar surface.  I put the stummel aside for the patches to cure for about 12 hours.  The pictures show the digression.brandy20 brandy21With the putty patches curing, I take the stem out of the Oxi-Clean bath and take a picture of the oxidation raised on the stem.  I then wet sand the stem with 600 grit paper followed by 0000 steel wool to remove the raised oxidation from the stem.  The stem is looking good.brandy22Before I proceed with the micromesh pad sanding, I clean the internals of the stem using pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl 95%.  Using a sharp dental probe, I also dig out gunk from the slot.  The stem internals were dirty but pipe cleaners eventually prevailed.brandy23I then begin the micromesh cycle by first wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000, then 6000 to 12000.  After each set of 3, I applied Obsidian Oil to the stem to revitalize the vulcanite.  The pictures show the progress, and a slight interruption when my daughter FaceTime’s me from Nashville between cycles – the pictures also show this wonderful interruption!   With the stem looking good, I put it aside and return to the stummel.brandy24 brandy25After the briar dust patches cure on the stummel surface, I begin the long process of filing and sanding the excess putty off the patches to bring the putty flush with the briar surface.  I first use a flat needle file to bring the excess almost to the surface and then I use 240 grit paper to smooth further, blending the patch with the surface.  With as many fills that I had, it provided ample practice to perfect my approach!  After smoothing all the briar dust putty patches, I find that some patches have small air-pockets revealed as I sand.  With these, I spot-drop some superglue, apply an accelerator to rapidly cure the glue, then re-sand those areas until the patches blend with the surface.  The pictures slow the slow progress.brandy27 brandy28 brandy29 brandy30With my day ending, I decide to clean the stummel internals further with a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  This cleans further as well as freshen the stummel for a new steward.  I stretch and twist a cotton ball to create a ‘wick’ to insert down the mortise.  This helps draw out the oils and grime.  Then I place the stummel in an egg carton for stability and fill the chamber with kosher salt.  The kosher salt is without iodine which can leave a taste.  I shake the stummel a bit with my palm over the chamber to displace the salt in the mortise a bit.  I then fill the fire chamber with isopropyl 95% until it rises a bit over the salt.  I then put the stummel aside for the night allowing the salt and alcohol to do the work.brandy31The next morning, the salt and cotton ‘wick’ had darkened signifying the job of drawing out tars and oils was achieved.  I dump out the expended salt by thumping the stummel on the palm and tossing the wick. I wipe the chamber with paper towel, and then use multi-sized round bristled brushes in the chamber and mortise to rid the stummel of residue salt.  I complete the cleaning job by plunging a few more cotton swabs and pipe cleaners into the mortise and draft hole and find that all the tars and oils have been removed.  I determine the Brandy’s cleaning, ‘Completed’!  The pictures show the progress.brandy32 brandy33 brandy34I turn again to the briar surface of the stummel.  With all the patch work done, I make a quick inspection of the surface looking for little shiny spots which would indicate that some residue excess of superglue was remaining on the briar surface.  I quickly address these with a rapid sanding with 240 grit paper.  From there, I return to a light grade sanding sponge and re-sand the entire surface aiming to help the blending with the plethora of patches and the briar surface.  brandy35I then proceed through the cycles of micromesh pads, 1500 to 12000.  The volatile nature of the grain in this block of briar becomes evident – it is evident that the block was taken from the upper or outer regions of the briar bush’s ‘burl’.  Its grain is more turbulent than you would find deeper inside the burl, where grains are a spectrum of non-existent to orderly currents of grain.  This excerpt from an article from Pipes & Tobaccos (1999) about briar grains from R. D. Field, I found very helpful in understanding briar grains:

Any burl, whether it be 30 years old or 130, does not possess what we call grain in its totality. When a burl is split in half a variety of patterns are able to be discerned in that: The center of the burl has no grain. The center, or heart, contains all the liquid held in the burl which is red in color and is known as blood. The wood surrounding this blood is also of a reddish tint and is devoid of capillaries as the water has got to where it was meant to be for storage.  Capillaries surround the center and, depending on the growing pattern of the burl and how it was split, can take the shape of straight grain, cross grain, flame grain, mixed grain, etc.

As we approach the upper part of the burl from where the branches emerge a pattern known as “branch wood” can be seen. Because the branches of the shrub actually start their growth within the burl the wood in these portions takes on some of the characteristics of the emerging branch. To look upon a swirling piece of briar devoid of other grain character (whether in a finished pipe or as part of the burl) is to look upon branch wood.

The many fills in this piece of briar I believe is due to it being an example of a block taken at a ‘branch wood’ formation seen in the pictures below.  The pictures show the progression through the micromesh pad cycles.brandy36 brandy37

The next step in the project is to stain the stummel.  I will aim for a darker hue but I want to contextualize this Brandy by bending the hue toward the reds using Fiebing’s Oxblood Leather Dye mixed with Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye including a hint of black, non-aniline dye.  I found a picture on the internet (below) that envisions the perfect ambiance for this Brandy after he’s restored and recommissioned! I’m aiming for the darker hue of the brandy that is displayed.  Dreamstime is doing a good job promoting the brandy glass, but truth be known, the Brandy shaped pipe I have would have been a better choice for display!  Acknowledging a totally unscientific approach to the mixture, if I find the results too red, I will probably follow by a straight application of Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye as an overcoat.brandy38After the dyes are mixed in a shot glass, I heat the stummel with an air gun to expand the grains to absorb the dye more efficiently.  Then, using a bent-over pipe cleaner, I apply the dye mixture liberally over the surface, utilizing a cork inserted into the mortise as a handle.  When applied, I fire the stummel with a lit candle, and the alcohol in the dye immediately burns off and sets the dye in the grain.  To make sure I’ve achieved total coverage, I repeat the process again, finishing by firing the dye, and putting the stummel aside to rest for several hours.  The pictures show the staining process.brandy39 brandy40A little anxious to unwrap the flamed dye crust, my impatience wins out and I mount the felt wheel on the Dremel high speed rotary tool.  I set the speed to the slowest available and using Tripoli compound I begin removing the crust to reveal the briar underneath.  Then, using a cotton cloth wheel, I apply Blue Diamond compound to the stummel, also using the slowest speed available.  After the Blue Diamond, I’m seeing two things – the hue is a bit redder than I wanted and I am seeing light spots that need darkening.  I use a mahogany dye stick and darken the light areas to blend.  Then, I take out the Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye, and set up for another application of dye to the stummel. With a folded pipe cleaner I apply Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye two times, as before, flaming after each application, then setting the stummel aside to rest.  Pictures tell the story.brandy41 brandy42After a few hours, I repeat the process of applying both Tripoli and Blue Diamond compounds to the stummel surface.  Following the compound application I hand buff the stummel with a flannel towel to remove the residue compound dust on the stummel.  I do this before applying the carnauba wax.  Changing to the cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel, I increase the speed to 2, the second slowest speed of 5 – being the fastest.  I reattach the stem and stummel and apply to both several coats of carnauba wax and then give the pipe a rigorous hand buff with a micromesh cloth to bring out the shine.brandy43This Brandy Bent Unmarked had a lot going against it after I discovered the multitude of fills necessary to restore and recommission this pipe.  Considering the odds against it, I think it looks very good.  The grain is very expressive.  I like the dark brown finish as the overcoat of the oxblood – it fits well the Brandy shape.  I sell my restorations with the profits helping the work we do with the Daughters of Bulgaria – those sexually exploited and trafficked.  This Brandy is ready to serve a new steward.  If you’re interested in adopting him and helping the Daughters, check out The Pipe Steward Store.  Thanks for joining me!brandy44 brandy45 brandy46 brandy47 brandy48 brandy49 brandy50