Tag Archives: restaining a pipe

Restoring a Strangely Shaped Hilson Dromedary with an Oval Shank


Blog by  Steve Laug

My friend Alex stops by now and then with pipes that he has found on his pipe hunts in the city. Generally he has some very interesting pipes he picks up on these hunts. The other night when he came by he brought along a strange one made by Hilson after they had moved to Holland. It is called a Dromedary.    I suppose it was named after the Arabian one-humped camel that was a light and swift breed trained for riding or racing. When I was in Jaipur, India I saw Dromedary camels pulling carts and wagons in the streets of the fabric district (see the photo to the left). The single hump clearly distinguishes them from the other 2 humped camel.

This Hilson was obviously named after that work animal from the East. The single hump on the shank while at first glance is ugly nonetheless fits nicely as a thumb rest for either right or left handed pipe smokers. I cannot find a timeline for the duration of the brand but I have seen them on EBay and other sale sites so I am assuming there are enough of them out there to still be in existence. It is the first one that I have had in hand and the first one that I have worked on. I took photos of the pipe before I started my cleanup work on it. They show the general condition of the pipe.

The finish on the bowl is very dirty and grimy but you can see some interesting cross grain left side of the bowl working down to the underside of the shank. The back of the bowl show some of the same grain and on the sides there is a mix of birdseye and swirled grain. On the right side there is a small fill that has come loose from the briar leaving behind a divot. The rim top is very dirty with a thick coat of lava overflowing from the bowl. It also shows some damage on the inner edge – it looks to have been reamed with a knife and the gouges show even under the grime. There is a burn mark on the back ride side of the rim and going down the back of the bowl about a ¼ inch. The bowl has a thick cake that is uneven all around the bowl. The stamping on the shank is readable and the area around it is very dark. The stem is oxidized and dirty. There is a slight H mark on the top side near the shank stem junction but it is pretty shallow in the vulcanite.

The next closeup photos of the bowl and stem truly show the condition of the pipe before I started.You can see the lava build up and damage to the rim top as well as the cake in the bowl. The bowl had a fairly thick cake overflowing onto the rim. The stem was very oxidized and spotty with tooth chatter and marks on both the top and underside of the stem near the button. There is a faint Hilson H logo stamped on the top of the oval stem. I do not know if it is deep enough to salvage.

The pipe has some nice cross grain that is shown in the first photo of the left side of the bowl. The right side is a mix of grains – swirled, flame and cross grain. The top and underside of the bowl and shank show some interesting, almost undulating grain patterns. This is particularly visible on the top view moving up and over the hump. It is a great piece of briar that shows a lot of promise.

The pipe is stamped on the underside of the oval shank. It reads Hilson over Dromedary over Made in Holland. At the shank/stem junction it has the shape number stamp 712.The photo below shows that the stamping is readable. (The second photo shows the stamping after I had removed the dark stain and polished it carefully with the 1500-2400 micromesh sanding pads.)

It has been awhile since I worked on a Hilson so I did a quick review of the history of the brand. This always adds some value to my mind when I work on a pipe. I remembered at some point Hilson had been sold to Gubbels who made the Big Ben pipe. At that time, it moved from being a Belgian made pipe to being made in the Netherlands/Holland. I turned to Pipedia and read the entry on Hilson there(https://pipedia.org/wiki/Hilson)and to Pipephil’s site to read what he had for information (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-h3.html).I have combined and summarized the pertinent information from the two sites.

In 1846 a German named Jean Knödgen started to produce clay pipe in Belgium. In the late 19th century Jean Hillen who married into the Knödgen family took over the company and changed the firm in order to manufacture briar pipes. Jean Hillen had 2 sons: Jos Hillen was responsible for sales and Albert Hillen was responsible for the production.After WWII Albert founded the HILSON brand (Hillen and Son) and exported his pipes all over the world.

…In the 1960’s and still throughout the 1970’s the brand Hilson of Broers Hillen B.V. (Hillen Bros. Co.) was quite successful in many European countries. They produced large numbers of machine made pipes covering the whole range of shapes and finishes. The pipes were well respected for good quality and craftsmenship at very moderate prices.

…in 1980 Hillen faced major financial problems. After having gone bankrupt, the Belgian brand from Bree (Limburg) wastaken over by the Royal Dutch Pipe Factory. The owner, Elbert Gubbels used the favour of the hour and bought the company…The Hillen plant in Bree was closed down shortly after and ever since then Hilson pipes are manufactured in Roermond, NL.

Given that the plant in Bree, Belgium closed around 1980 after Gubbels had purchased the company, I knew that the pipe I was working on had been made after that time.The Made in Holland stamp on the underside of the shank gave that information.I am not sure that I can get any closer in terms of a date for the pipe.

I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer to remove the cake and cleaned up after the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife (no photo, sorry!). I wrapped 220 sandpaper around a piece of dowel and sanded the inside of the bowl.

I topped the bowl on a piece of 220 grit sandpaper on the topping board. I scrubbed the finish with a cotton pad and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grit and grime. I scrubbed the rim top at the same time to remove the sanding dust. I rinsed the bowl under running water and dried it off. The grain really is quite beautiful at this point in the process. There are some repairs that need to be done on the right side of the bowl but the bowl shows a lot of promise.

I sanded the burn mark on the back side of the bowl and filled in the damaged fill on the right side with a mix of super glue and briar dust. When the glue dried I sanded the repair with 220 grit sandpaper to blend the area into the rest of the briar surface. I apologize because I was on a roll so I forgot to take photos of the repairs. I wiped down the bowl with an alcohol dampened cotton pad to remove the sanding dust and smooth out the finish. The grain is looking really good. The burn mark, though still visible is better. The repaired area is also far better.

I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads –wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads.I wiped the bowl down with a damp cotton pad after each grit of micromesh was finished. The bowl is beginning to take on a real shine and the grain is becoming more prominent.

With the bowl polished it was time to address the lighter rim top and the repairs to the burn and the fill on the rear and right side respectively (result of sanding). I used an Oak Stain Pen to touch up the areas and darken them to match the rest of the bowl. Once the stain dried the match was really good and the pipe looked better.

I worked Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like. The grain is quite beautiful and the colour of the briar is perfect to highlight it. I am happy with the look of the pipe.

I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. It was pretty rough looking and would take some work. I sanded the surface carefully with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter, marks and oxidation. While I worked on it I noticed I had not cleaned the inside of the stem and went back and looked at the shank and bowl… my goodness I totally forgot to even touch that part after reaming the bowl. I brought the stem sanding to a halt and turned back to cleaning up the internals. I cleaned out the airway in the stem and shank as well as the mortise with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. It was really a mess. I picked out the crud in the corners of the stem with a dental pick. Here are some photos of the cleanup. I feel better about the pipe now! Whew I can’t believe I missed that… been a hard week.

I returned to sand the stem some more. I was able to remove all of the chatter and all but one of the deep tooth marks on the underside of the stem. I heated it a little to raise it then filled it in with some clear super glue and set it aside to cure.

When the repair had cured I used a needle file to flatten the repaired area. I smoothed out and blend it into the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper.

I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and then polished it with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish.

I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it further with Before& After Pipe Polish, using both the Fine and Extra Fine polishes to furtherprotect and polish out the scratches. When I finished with those I gave it afinal rub down with the oil and set it aside to dry. 

With the stem polished I put it back on the pipe and buffed the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond. I gave the bowl several coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This Hilson Dromedary 712 will soon going back to Alex. The dimensions are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 inches. I am looking forward to seeing what Alex thinks of this one. I will be calling him soon to come and pick up the pair. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this old dromedary.

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The Doctor Gets a New Coat- A Dr Grabow Omega Reborn


Blog by Greg Wolford

Of late I’ve been admiring system-type pipes. Having never had one I placed a bid on a lot of four old pipes – two I had little interest in – two of which were Dr Grabow Omegas, a smooth and a rusticated. Here are a few photos from the seller; I forgot (again) to take before and even some along-the-way shots.
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I stared on them both with the normal scrubbing the outside with acetone on cotton balls to remove their finishes. Then I reamed them back to bare wood. The smooth pipe was heavily caked but the rusticated one wasn’t at all, barely smoked really. However, you can’t tell in the above picture, the rusticated one had some heavy damage to the inner rim. I began by topping the bowl to even it it some but it would take a lot of briar removal to attempt to get out the chunks missing from the inner rim. So I took the second largest head on my Castleford reamer, too big for the bowl, and started a “bevel” on the inner rim, which I then worked with needle files and sandpaper to smooth out. I couldn’t take out all the damage but made it much less noticeable and would be even better after I stained it and it was later smoked. Next I got out my hand drill and re-drilled both bowls with a 5/32″ bit to improve the draw. I did the same thing with the tenon ends of the stems and then funneled them out. At this point I dropped both bowls in an alcohol bath overnight.

I cleaned out the stems with alcohol and pipe cleaners until they came out white. These stems are not vulcanite but a nylon-type material, ABS plastic I believe, and are not my favorite to work on. The smooth bowled pipe had a good stem the rusticated one’s stem was chewed pretty badly. I decided to use some of the adhesive accelerator and black super glue to raise up some the bites marks; I left the “roughness” of the chew marks on, thinking the glue would adhere better. I alternated polishing the “good” stem and building up the patch on the chewed up P-lip style one. Once the “rough” stem was built up to my satisfaction I used a needle file and some 320 wet/dry paper to smooth off the roughness from the chewing the previous pipeman had done. Then I polished the stem with plastic polish and was happy with the “decent” look I ended up with; I felt it just wasn’t worth the time and effort to try to get this plastic stem any closer to “new” than it was now.

The next morning I took the bowls out of their soak and let them dry an hour or so. I wanted to make this “typical” rusticated Omega look less typical so I started sanding in it; the rustication was plenty deep enough to remove some briar on the smooth part without worry of loosing the rustication’s definition. I did tape off the stamping to retain that as much as possible before starting.

Taking off the old deep red top coat would give me a great opportunity to create a kind of unique contrast on this pipe I thought so after sanding the bowl and band with 220 and 320 grits I used a black sharpie to color in all the rustication and also the rim and new inner bevel. Then I used 400 grit to sand off the bowl again, to remove the over-marks of black, and the band. Then I applied a coat of a lighter red, which is actually a stain marker I got in a set at The Dollar Tree and is marked “medium brown”. I let the stain cure for a bit and then highlighted the nomenclature with white acrylic paint, for an extra “pop”.

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While the paint cured I have the stem a final polish with plastic polish just to brighten and shine it a little more. I was tempted to try to make the bit nicer but the back of my mind kept telling me it wasn’t worth the headache so I finally decided to leave it.

I have the bowl one last coat of stain and let it dry for about 15 minutes; these bargain-markers dry real fast, even if the colors aren’t what I thought they’d be. Then I applied a good coat of Halcyon II wax to the pipe and stem and buffed it by hand.

The end product is, in my eye, a pretty neat and definitely different from most other Omega product, even with the “boogered” stem.

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Custom Made Billiard Back into Service


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Royal Danish Acorn Shape 971 Reborn


Blog by Steve Laug

This is another pipe from the lot I picked up on Ebay not long ago. The lot is pictured in the photo below and this one is the third pipe down on the first column, left side. It is stamped Royal Danish in script over MADE IN DENMARK on the underside of the shank. It is also stamped 971. To me the shape is an oval shanked acorn. It has a sandblast finish with a smooth area on each side of the bowl and on the area that bears the stamping on the shank. The bowl was heavily caked as can be seen in the second photo. The finish was not in bad shape just dirty and the smooth areas had small scratches on the surface. The rim was caked with spill over from the bowl and would need to be scrubbed to remove the build up and make the sand blasted rim visible again. The bowl came without a stem.

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I sorted through my box of stems to see if I had one that was suitable for this pipe and found an estate stem that would work with a little cleanup. It was heavily oxidized and had some tooth chatter on the surface of the stem that became very visible as I cleaned it. The stem was clogged with tar and oils and I would have to unclog it to make it work. I used a paper clip that I straightened out to clean out the build up in the stem then sanded the tenon until the stem fit the pipe. I lined it up with the curves on the shank. Because of the sandblast on the shank the stem would not line up perfectly so I decided to sand a smooth band around the shank for the stem to line up with. I used a Dremel with a sanding drum to smooth out the edge of the shank. The next four photos show the finished band around the shank. Once it was stained I thought it would be a good contrast with the stem and the finish of the sandblast.

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I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer. I began with the smallest cutting head and worked my way up to the second cutting head (first photo below). Once I had the bowl cleaned out I worked on the stem to clean up the oxidation and work on the tooth marks. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper and then with a fine grit sanding sponge (photos 2 and 3 below). I also sanded the banded area that I cut with the sanding drum.

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I wiped the bowl and shank down with acetone and a cotton pad. I wanted to remove the grime in the crevices of the blast on the shank and bowl. I used a soft bristle tooth brush and acetone to clean up the rim of the pipe. I scrubbed it until the finish was clean. Photos 1 and 2 below show the finish after the cleaning. The grey is the finish after it broke down with the acetone. I continued to scrub it until the finish was clean.

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I set up the heat gun and heated the stem and bent it over the rolling pin that I use to get a good straight bend in the stem. I also buffed the stem and bowl with White Diamond. I used a light touch on the stem as I intended to keep sanding it with the micromesh sanding pads. I took it back to the work table and restained it with a dark brown aniline stain thinned with isopropyl alcohol. The mix was my attempt to match it to the original stain. I wanted the dark stain in the grooves of the blast to stand out against the brown over stain. The next three photos show the bend in the stem and the restained bowl. The band that I sanded in the shank is a nice contrast to the sandblast and the black of the vulcanite stem.

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I sanded the stem with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit. I wet sanded with the 1500-2400 grit pads and then dry sanded with the 3200-12,000 grit pads. The next series of four photos show how each progressive grit of sanding pads bring a deeper shine to the stem.

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I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil to protect the new shine against oxidation and then once it was dry took it to the buffer and buffed the stem with White Diamond. I finished by buffing the bowl and stem lightly with White Diamond a second time. It took the pipe back to my work table and gave it several coats of Halcyon II Wax. I have found that it does a great job on sandblast and rusticated finishes. When it was dry I hand buffed it with a shoe brush until it had a rich shine. The next series of photos show the finished pipe. I like the new look to the shank and bowl and the new stem looks like it came with the pipe!

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Restemmed and Refurbish Savinelli Duca Carlo


Blog by Steve Laug

I picked up a Duca Carlo in utter ignorance on EBay the other day. I was not familiar with the brand and only later found out it was a Savinelli. The seller’s photograph are worse than mine so I was not sure what I was getting but decided to take a chance on it. I picked it up for very little so I figured I had nothing to lose. The first series of out of focus photos show the pipe as it appeared in the seller’s advert on EBay. The grain looked like it had potential to me and the rest of the pipe appeared to be in workable shape. Once it got here I would have a better idea of what work would need to be done.

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The first photo below shows the pipe after I took it out of the box it came in and put it on my work table. It was definitely in need of a ream and clean. The bottom of the bowl was dusty but had no cake on it. The upper portion of the bowl had an uneven cake. The rim was tarred and oily but there were no dents in the rim or on the rest of the bowl for that matter. The shank had a small hairline crack on the right side. It is next to the fill on the shank that is visible in the photo below. Fortunately this was the only fill I found in the bowl. It was not a bad piece of briar. There are a few bald spots on the bottom of the bowl but there is also some nice grain both birdseye and flame on the sides, front and back of the bowl and also on the shank. The shank and the bottom of the bowl had some cobwebs in it like it had been sitting in storage for a while. I blew out the dust bunnies and then pulled out a stem from my box of stems. It did not have a tenon so I screwed in a delrin tenon into the drilled out hole in the stem. The shank of the Duca Carlo was also drilled for a filter but I decided since I was restemming it and putting a new tenon on the stem I would make it fit without a filter.

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I needed to remove a lot of the delrin from the diameter of the tenon to get a proper fit. The tenon was too large for my Pimo Tenon Turner so I had to do the shaping by hand with files and my Dremel. The next two photos show the shaping process of the tenon. I used a rasp to take of as much of the material as I thought practical. I then used the sanding drum on the Dremel to smooth out the tooth marks from the rasp. I finally used medium grit Emery paper to take down the remainder of the tenon.

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Once I had it sanded to fit I inserted it in the mortise to check the hairline crack. In the photo below I have it partially inserted and the crack is visible next to the fill on the shank. It was not a large or serious crack but in inspecting it I found one on the underside of the shank as well on the opposite edge. This made it necessary for me to band the shank to maintain the integrity of the pipe.

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I sorted through my box of bands and found one that would give a good tight fit to the shank. It is a nickel band and once heated and pressure fit on the shank it would give the strength to the shank. The next three photos show the banding process from choosing the band to pressure fitting it on the shank.

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After banding the shank I inserted the stem in the shank and it fit well. It was snug and fit against the end of the shank cleanly. It was a bit larger in diameter than the shank so I sanded it with the emery paper to remove the excess material on the stem. The next three photos show the progress of fitting the stem against the shank.

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I reamed the bowl with my T handle Pipnet reamer and blade heads. It was an easy ream as the bottom half of the bowl was clear briar. The Pipnet reamer must be carefully inserted and turned so as not to make the bowl out of round or damage the bowl.

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After reaming I decided to clean off the tars and oils on the rim. I used a fine grit sanding sponge to remove the grime as seen in the first picture below. I then wiped down the bowl and rim with acetone on a cotton pad as can be seen in the second and third photo below. I found that cleaning off the grime and the dark parts of the bowl revealed some really nice grain on the pipe.

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The next three photos show the bowl after the wipe down with acetone and the stem after sanding with the medium grit sanding sponge. The fit is getting very close to being what I was looking for. I am still not sure about the bend in the stem. It fits well in the mouth but I may heat and rebend it. I will see once I am finished with the pipe.

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I restained the bowl and rim with dark brown aniline stain. I applied it with the dauber and then flamed it with a match, restained and reflamed it. The next three photos show the freshly stained bowl after I flamed it. Once it was dry I took it to my buffer and buffed the bowl with Tripoli to polish and remove the excess stain.

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Even after buffing the stain was too dark for me. I wiped the bowl down with acetone on a cotton pad to lighten the stain. The next series of three photos show the bowl after I had wiped it down with the acetone. The colour was what I wanted. It would polish up very well.

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I set the bowl aside after this and went to work on the stem with the micromesh sanding pads. The next nine photos show the polishing process with the micromesh pads and the Maguiar’s Scratch X 2.0. I began dry sanding the stem with 1500 grit micromesh sanding pads. After that I polished the stem with the Maguiar’s before working through the rest of the micromesh grits 1800-12,000. After the final sanding I polished it a second time with the Maguiar’s and then gave it a buff with White Diamond. I brought it back to the work table and wiped it down with Obsidian Oil and then coated it with some carnauba wax. For much of the final sanding I worked with the stem on the shank so as not to round the shoulders of the stem.

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When I had the scratches worked out of the stem I buffed the entire pipe with White Diamond and then several coats of carnauba wax. The finished pipe can be seen in the photos below. I decided not to rebend the stem but to leave it for now and see how it feels when smoking it. I can rebend it at any time should I choose. The final four photos show the finished pipe. This was a pretty straightforward refurb, it took me about three hours to restem and refinish the pipe.

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Italian Made Pot Refurbished and Reborn with a New Look


This was one of the stummels from a box of pipes without stems that are all that are left of a big lot of pipes I was gifted by a friend. There are about 30 left, I have restemmed many of them over the past year and given away many more. This one is a no name Italian Made that is stamped Real Briar in italics and stamped on the left side of the shank. It is a rusticated bowl and as can be seen in the picture below had a cracked shank. The stem that is in the pipe is one that I recycled from my can of stems. It needed to be cut down to make the diameter of the shank match the diameter of the stem. I also needed to band the shank to do a repair to the crack.

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The picture below show the bowl as it came to me. It had been reamed with something that scored the bottom of the bowl and left marks. It was however very clean. The rim had slight darkening but was otherwise clean as well. The inside of the shank was clean and fresh. The pipe took very little prep other than repairing the cracked shank to ready it for the new stem.

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To prepare it for banding I checked through my box of bands to find one that would give a good tight fit when pressure fit to the shank. I found one that would work but also found that the carved grooves in the finish of the pipe made a tight fit to the shank virtually impossible to obtain. I used my dremel to remove some of the grooves to the depth of the band width. I checked the band fit several times and took off enough of the briar to obtain a tight fit. I was able to step down one size in bands and got a perfect fit. The next two photos show the shank prepared for the fitting of the band. I also used some superglue to repair the crack in the shank. I pried it open with a dental pick inserted in the shank and applied pressure to open the crack enough for the superglue. I dripped the glue into the crack and squeezed it shut until it dried. IMG_9869

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I slid the band on to start the fitting and then took it to my heat gun. I heated the band on the shank and then pressed it into place. I repeated the process until the band was properly placed on the shank. The next two photos show that process – I heat the band and then press it on using the piece of carpet on my work table.

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Once the band was in place I used my Dremel on the stem to remove the excess material on the diameter of the stem. I have found that if I run it at a medium speed I can control the sanding drum and not cut gouges in the vulcanite. It requires a steady hand and patience to get the work done without cutting too deeply into the stem and causing gouging that takes a lot of sanding to remove. After I cut away the necessary excess I also sanded the tenon for a proper fit in the shank. Once I had banded the pipe it no longer fit as easily. I wanted a smooth and snug fit but not one that would damage the shank. The picture below shows the stem after I have started sanding the stem with medium grit emery cloth to sand out the scratches and fine tune the fit against the band.

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I continued sanding with the emery cloth until the fit was what I wanted. The next two photos show the pipe with its new look. The band is in place and the stem fits. It is a nice chunky stem that I think matches the shape and flow of the bowl and shank nicely. I still had a lot of sanding to go. I continued with the emery cloth to remove the build up and oxidation around the button area. I decided to rework the entire stem and then polish it to a shine.

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The next series of two photos show the progressive work on the stem. In the background of the pictures are some of the tools that I used in the work – a flat file, emery cloth and some 280 grit sandpaper. When I had finished the stem to this point all that remained was to work on it with some 320 grit and some 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper before moving on to sanding it with the micromesh sanding pads.

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At this point I decided to take a break from sanding – the old fingers were getting a bit sore. I used a brass tire brush to clean off the remnant of tars on the rim and then restained the pipe with a dark brown aniline stain thinned 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol. I applied it with a dauber and then flamed it and restained a second time and flamed it again. I then took it to the buffer and buffed it with Tripoli and White Diamond to give it a shine and remove the excess stain from the high spots on the briar and lend a little contrast to the darkened grooves. The next two photos show the restained bowl.

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I filled my water bowl with warm water and took out the micromesh pads and began to sand the stem. I began by wet sanding with 1500, 1800 and 2400 grit micromesh pads that I wet with water and then sanded the stem. Between each pass on the stem I would wipe it dry to see how the scratch removal was progressing. The next three photos show the stem after sanding with the 1500 grit micromesh. The scratches are beginning to disappear. Before moving on to sanding with the 1800 grit I decided to polish the stem with Maguiars Scratch X2.0 I applied it by hand and the scrubbed it off with a cotton pad. The next four photos show that process with the applied polish and then the stem after wiping it off.

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After wiping the stem down a final time I wet sanded it with 2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wanted to continue to remove the surface scratches from the vulcanite and begin to move toward a polish.

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The next photo shows the stem after dry sanding with 3200 grit micromesh. The shine is deepening in the finish of the stem.

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I then shifted to dry sanding with 3600, 4000 and 6000, 8000 and 12,000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I sanded and wiped them down between each grit change. By the time I got to the 6000 the shine was visible and the finish was very smooth. The difference after sanding with the 8000 and 12,000 is remarkable.

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The final four photos below show the finished pipe. Once I had finished sanding it I gave it a final polish with the Maguiars and then took it to the buffer for a buff with White Diamond. I then rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil and finally gave it several coats of carnauba wax and a buff with a soft flannel buffing pad. The newly born Italian pot is ready to smoke and has a new streamlined look that I really like.

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Restored Golf Old Briar Billiard


This Golf Old Briar Billiard is the fourth pipe of the six that a friend from Smokers Forums sent my way. This one was the kind of challenge I enjoy. The briar was in pretty good shape under all the dirt and paint and black tarry deposits on the rim and the sides of the bowl. The pipe is stamped Golf in script over Old Briar in block type. On the underside of the shank near the stem it is also stamped with the shape number 1304. I am not sure who made the Golf brand of pipes but I saw several on Pipephil’s site with the name and different logos. It is an interesting piece and quite hefty. It is not large in terms of length or height but in terms of bulk. The finish was shot as you can see and would take some work to remove all the stains and paint flecks on the bowl. There were also some very visible fills on the bowl sides. The stem was very oxidized and had some odd oil like patterns on it that remain a mystery to me as to the cause. There was also a script G on the stem but it was merely applied to the surface rather than stamped into the stem material.

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In the photo below I wanted to show the unique stinger apparatus in the stem. It was removable but seems very tiny in proportion to the size of the pipe. It is a needle point with a slot in the top surface that the smoke is drawn through. There is not much surface area to collect the moisture so I am not altogether sure of the effectiveness of the stinger. The stem was stuck so I had to put it in the freezer for several hours before I could remove it from the shank without breaking things. Once I took it out of the freezer it was fairly easy to remove.

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I put the stem in the Oxyclean bath with the one from the figural pipe. I also put the two bowls in the alcohol bath overnight before giving them a once over. The two photos below show the pipe after I took it out of the bath to begin working on it. You can see that some of the grime was removed but the paint flecks remained as did the black stains on the bowl. These would take more work.

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I used some acetone on a cotton pad to scrub down the bowl. The next series of two photos show how well the acetone removed the finish. It made short work of the paint and dark stains on the briar. I scrubbed it until the surface was clean. You can also see the presence of the fills that I spoke of earlier.

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The rim of the bowl was rough so I decided to top it a slight amount to remove the damage and to clean up the surface. Since I was staining the pipe anyway there would be no problem in trying to match bowl and rim. I used my normal sandpaper on a board system and sanded the bowl in a clockwise motion to smooth out the surface. I first used a fine grit emery cloth and then followed that with 320 grit sandpaper. The first two photos below show that process and the effectiveness of it.

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The next series of four photos show the bowl after I wiped it down with acetone again after the topping of the rim. The cotton pads show the sanding dust and surface grit that still remained on the surface of the bowl. I wanted to give it a final wash before staining it. I decided to not remove the fills on this bowl. I wanted to see if I could blend them in with the stain coat rather than replace them with the superglue briar dust patches that I generally use.

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I chose to restain this pipe with a dark brown aniline stain thinned 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol. It is the same stain I used on the figural pipe that I posted about earlier. The next series of four photos show the process of the staining. I had my daughter help me with the photos and she was able to capture the flaming process in the last photo in this series. The flame burns quickly and blue. It burns off the alcohol and sets the stain in the grain of the briar. I love the way that flame dances on the surface of the pipe.

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I set the bowl aside once the flame had died and worked on the stem. The next series of photos show the stem as it appeared after I removed it from the Oxyclean bath. It needed a lot of work. I had to sacrifice the painted G script as it would not survive the clean up. I used my Bic lighter technique to burn the oxidation. The process is very simple as I just move the flame over the surface of the stem never letting it stay in one place too long. I repeat the process until the surface is clean and black. I then polished the stem with the Maguiar’s Scratch X2.0 scrubbed on by hand then polished off with cotton pads. I repeated that process twice and then sanded the stem with the micromesh sanding pads 1500-12,000 grit. I finished by once again applying the Maguiar’s before putting the stem back on the pipe and taking it to my buffer to buff with White Diamond.

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The next four photos show the finished pipe. It has several coats of carnauba wax applied by my buffer and buffed out to a shine with soft flannel buffing pads. The stain is a bit lighter than it appears in the photos and you can see the grain through the finish. The fills are all but invisible at a quick glance. Before I stained the fills I drew over them with a black permanent marker and then stained them. They covered very well with the marker and the dark stain.

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