Tag Archives: restemming a pipe

Restemming and Rebirthing a Landry 2013 Bent Ball


Blog by Steve Laug

Last evening I had a fellow drop by the house with three pipes for repair. Two of them were not worth repairing – broken shanks and Chinese knockoff pipes. Neither was made of briar and one had the beginning of a large burn out on the back of the bowl. I discouraged the fellow from fixing either of those two as the cost of repair would be more than he paid when he purchased them. However the third one was interesting to me. It was a bent ball bowl without a stem. It was a real mess. He had broken the stem in half and lost it. The shank had also been broken but he was a bit of a wood worker and had clamped and glued it. He had done a decent job and the repair was solid. The bowl had a cake that was thick and soft – made from the heavily case aromatic that he smoked. The airway in the shank was clogged with tars and oils and I could not even blow through it. The rusticated finish was rugged and sharp with a smooth rim and shank band. The bowl and rim were very dirty and the briar looked lifeless. The shank flared at the stem/shank junction.

When I examined the pipe while he was there I found that it had a makers stamp on an oval smooth patch on the underside of the shank. It was clearly stamped LANDRY arched at the top of the oval. The year it was made, 2013 was in the middle of the oval and the letters U.I.O.G.D were arched at the bottom of the oval. When I asked the owner of the pipe what those letters were he said that I was some Latin phrase. When I examined it with a loupe I found that there were periods between the letters and that probably I was dealing with an acronym of some kind. I went with his notion of it being Latin, Googled the acronym and found that it stood for the five words making up the Benedictine motto: Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Dei (translated from Latin it means: So that in all things God may be glorified). That made sense as he had been given the pipe by a Benedictine Priest a while ago when he had first started smoking a pipe and he had broken it after smoking it quite heavily.

I took photos of the bowl before I started to work on it. You can see the repair on the shank. The rustication is very dirty and the rim top is coated with an overflow of lava from the bowl. The entire pipe reeked of a sweet cherry aromatic. The shank was heavily gummed up and I could not blow air through the shank into the bowl. It was clogged. The bowl also appeared to be drilled at an angle and from a quick glance seemed to be drilled crooked. The pipe was a mess! I took a photo of the oval and the stamping on the shank. You can also see the glue repair on the shank. It was a solid repair but a bit sloppy.There were some gaps in the glue around the circumference of the shank so I used a wire brush to clean up excess glue from the repair. I wanted to remove all of the excess glue so that it would look cleaner once I finished. I then filled in the gaps in the repair with clear super glue and filled in those areas with briar dust to build up the area ahead of the smooth band at the shank end.Restemming this old bowl would be a bit tricky. The shank actually flared to a smooth hip at the end where the stem sat. It was wider in diameter than the rusticated shank just below it. It was obvious from the way the shank end and mortise were made that it required a flush fit stem and not a freehand style stem. I would need to find a stem that had a wide enough diameter for me to work with and give the pipe the kind of look that it must have had originally. I went through my can of old stems and found one that was going to work. The tenon was almost perfect. I sanded it lightly with the sanding drum on the Dremel and cleaned it up with a file and the fit was just right. I would need to reduce the diameter of the stem slightly to match the shank but I think it was going to work for me. I took photos of the fit of the “new” stem to show you what I saw. Bear with me for the moment. It was quite ugly and my brother said it looked like a muffin top of a tight belt (or something like that). But I thought it had potential… time will tell. I trimmed the excess diameter of the stem with a sanding drum on my Dremel. I worked on it until the diameter was very close to the right size. I brought it back to the work table and sanded it smooth with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to remove the scratches from the Dremel. I took photos of the stem and shank at this point. I wiped down the stem with Obsidian Oil to clean off the dust and get a sense of how it was looking. I sanded the band around the shank a bit too as it had some glue on it from the repair that had been done. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process. I decided it was time to set the stem aside for a bit and work on the bowl. I took a photo of the bowl and rim to show what it looked like when I started. The bowl is thickly caked and there was damage to the inner edge of the rim. The lava overflow was quite thick on the rim top as well. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer. You can see the angle of the bowl from the way that the reamer is sitting in the second photo below. I cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife and then sanded the walls of the bowl with sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel. With the bowl reamed I turned my attention to the dirty exterior of the bowl. I scrubbed it with a tooth brush and undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap. I worked over the rim top with the tooth brush and a piece of sandpaper to remove the tars and lava there. I rinsed it off with running water to remove the soap and debris in the finish. Now it was time to address the thick tars and oils in the shank and open the airway into the bowl. I worked on the mortise and the airway in the shank with a paper clip, pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. Once I had opened the airway I scrubbed it until it was clean. I also cleaned out the airway in the new stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. It was not nearly as dirty as the shank.I polished the rim top and the smooth shank end with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the polished areas with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. The rim and shank end began to really look good. I decided to stain the bowl and shank with some Medium Walnut Danish Oil. It has the translucence I wanted to let the natural colour of the briar shine through while allowing me to hide the repairs to the shank. I applied the stain with a cotton pad and daubed it deep into the grooves of the rustication. I kept applying it until the coverage was good. I waxed the bowl with several coats of  Conservator’s Wax and buffed it out with a horsehair shoe brush. The bowl and rim looked really good. I really liked the look of the bowl at this point in the process. The shine and the finish looked very good. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the new stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and the scratch marks from fitting the stem. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil to remove the sanding dust and get a feel for the scratching. I polished the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish. I applied it with my finger and rubbed it in and then off with a cotton pad. I find that it is gritty enough to remove the residual oxidation after sanding (besides I have about three tins of the stuff to get through so I use it on each pipe).I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I finished polishing the stem with Before & After Pipe Polish – Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I bent the stem with a heat gun to get it to follow the lines of the top of the bowl so that it can hang in the mouth with the bowl top straight. I polished the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel and gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I put it back on the shank and buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine on the bowl. The heavy rustication works well with the stain I chose to use on it and the combination looks really good with the polished vulcanite stem. The flared shank end and the thick stem work well together to my mind to create an interesting pipe. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. Its dimensions are – Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outer diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. I will give it another coat of Conservator’s Wax and then call the fellow who dropped it off for repair. I am hoping he likes the look of his pipe. Thanks for reading this blog.

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Restoring Life to a Early 20th Century Gitana Depose Apple


Blog by Steve Laug

I was going through boxes of old pipes here, sorting and getting them ready to sell as grab bags. In the process I came across this pipe. It is stamped Gitana in an oval with an L on the left of the oval and G on the right side of the oval. Underneath the oval stamp is the word Depose. There is a polished aluminum band on the end of the shank. The briar is quite nice with birdseye around the bowl. The stem is horn and has a lot of tooth damage next to the button on both sides. There are deep troughs carved by the teeth in the horn material on both sides. The rim had a lot of damage from burn marks and the inner edge had been damaged by reaming with a knife. There was a white waxy substance on the inside of the bowl from the edge down about a ½ inch. There was a light cake in the bowl and some light lava on the bowl top. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the damage to the inner edge of the bowl from the reaming job. The cake on the bowl sides and the tarry oil on the rim top are also visible. The briar at the top is quite damaged and will take some work to remove the knife cuts and deep gouges in the briar. The stem is also shown with the chewed damage on both sides.  I removed the stem from the shank and was a bit surprised by the aluminum system that was inside. The tenon was aluminum and had a bullet shaped cap on the end of it. The cap had a hole in the top that allowed the smoke to be drawn through the airway in the stem. The previous own had wrapped the aluminum portion of the tenon with what looked like aluminum foil to build it up to fit tightly in the shank. The photos below show the tenon and the system. I was unfamiliar with the brand and was surprised by the tenon system. I did some searching online and could find nothing on the Gitana brand or the Gitana Depose brand. I did happen across a similar pipe on Smokingpipes.com. The writer who described the pipe for the site wrote the following which contained some really helpful information. I quote:

We were able to ascertain a little information about La Gitana, which was a French brand created by Chapel Frés…but this relic from the early 20th century still sports its original horn stem, coupled with a novel aluminum tenon arrangement that we can only assume is meant to trap moisture. Although we aren’t sure how well it achieves this, it does do quite well at looking like an old-school James Bond accessory. It fits securely within a cork-lined mortise, which many briars of this period tended to have. https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/estate/france/moreinfo.cfm?product_id=196840

From that I learned that the brand was called La Gitana. It was a French made pipe from a company called Chapel Frés. It was made in the early 20th century and the author had described the tenon system like the one I had.  I also learned that the mortise had originally been cork lined to facilitate holding the tenon snuggly in the shank. This was what was missing in the pipe I had and it had been replaced with the foil mess that is seen in the above photos.

Armed with the name Chapel Frés I looked on Pipedia under French Pipe Companies and found the brand there. It stated that it came from that factory and the brand had been founded in 1904 in Saint-Claude, France. Here is the link https://pipedia.org/wiki/Chapel_Fr%C3%A9s.

Armed with that information I started my cleanup of the stem. I scraped away the foil that was wrapped around the tenon. I examined the bullet shaped cap on the tenon and figured out that it unscrewed from the tenon. I cleaned the metal underneath alcohol, cotton swabs, pipe cleaners and steel wool. I cleaned out the airway in the shank at the same time. The tube in the end of the tenon looked clean. I used alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to clean out the inside of the bullet cap. I cleaned out the walls in the shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. It was a very dirty pipe that once it was clean had an interesting look to it. I cleaned up the inside of the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I scraped the walls clean of the carbon build up. I sanded the walls of the bowl with a piece of dowel wrapped with 220 grit sandpaper.To remove the damage on the rim top I topped the bowl until the damaged areas were removed and the rim top was clean. I used a folded piece of sandpaper to smooth out the inner edge of the rim and bring it back to round as much as I could. I washed down the exterior of the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the finish and the grim on the briar. The pipe looked really good at this point. I needed to round down the outer edges to bring it back to the shape it was when I started but for now it was clean. I took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank. The stamping is quite readable and clear.The tenon had some sticky substance for the glue on the foil on the tenon end. The tenon and threads still needed more cleaning to remove the oils.I filled in the tooth marks and troughs in the surface of the horn with clear super glue. I set the stem aside to dry.I decided to try to fit a cork in the shank to line it as suggested above. I cut away some of the excess cork from a wine cork I had. I trimmed it down with a Dremel and sanding drum until the diameter was close to the inside of the shank. I drilled it out with a series of drill bits starting small and working my way up to one that was close to the size of the tenon. I sanded down the cork exterior until it was a fit in the shank. I pressed it in place in the shank.I used a needle file to thin down the inner walls of the cork lining. It needed to be very thin to allow the tenon to fit in the shank. I tried to put the tenon in the shank. The fit was still not right. The cork was too thick to allow a fit. I pulled it out of the shank and slid it over the tenon. I sanded it down with sandpaper and files until it was a good fit. I glued the cork on the tenon and let it dry. When it cured I rubbed the cork down with Vaseline to soften it and allow it to slide into the shank. The fit was very good. I took some photos to show what the pipe looked like at this point in the restoration (I had also started the shaping on the bowl top). I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a clean cloth after each pad. The grain began to pop and really stand out. Once the glue repairs cured I sanded them with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repairs. I sanded them to blend them into the surface of the horn. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 and dry sanding them with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I gave it a final coat and let it dry. The following photos show both sides of the stem. I worked Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar and the horn stem with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood and the horn. 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 and stem looked like. I am happy with the look of the pipe. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and horn. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The original patina on the bowl came alive with the buffing and worked well with the polished striated horn stem. The pipe has a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem work give the pipe a very classic look. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 1/2 inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. Thanks for reading this while I worked on it. It was interesting and unusual piece to restore and I really enjoyed the work.

A Tiny 2 Star BBB 8881 Apple/Globe Provided An Interesting Challenge


Blog by Steve Laug

When I spoke with a fellow here in Vancouver who had a pipe that he wanted me to fix it sounded like a simple repair. He said that it had a very loosely fitting stem. He asked if he could drop by to show it to me and see if I could fix it. From past experience I have learned to never jump to conclusions about what sounded like an easy repair. When he arrived he showed me his GBD Faux Spigot. It turned out to need far more work than just tightening a loose stem. I wrote about that restoration in a previous blog (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/11/03/redoing-a-poorly-restored-ebay-gbd-super-q-9436/). We talked about his GBD for a bit and he made the decision to have me do a restoration on it. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small plastic bag with a little BBB 2 Star apple of globe shaped pipe. It was stamped BBB in a diamond on the left side of the shank with two ** – one on either side of the diamond. ON the right side it was stamped Made in England over the shape number 8881. He said that he had found it at his parents’ house and really no one there knew where it came from.

Here is what I saw. Starting with externals. The pipe was small – kind of a pocket pipe. The grain on the bowl was quite stunning – a mix of flame and birdseye all around the bowl and shank. The rim top was coated with a thick lava coat and it went into the bowl. The inner edge of the bowl was in rough shape having been hacked clean with a knife. There was a crack on the right side of the shank curving to the underside. It looked to me it was made by the poorly made stem being shoved into the shank. The stem was larger in diameter than the shank and had been rounded over with a file. There were deep bite marks on the surface ahead of the button on both sides. Moving to the internals. The end of the tenon was carved with a knife to make it fit the mortise in the small shank. The inside of the shank was dirty but less so than I expected. The inside of the bowl had a light cake but most of that was gone from the knife job that had left a wounded inner edge on the rim. Looking at the pipe I explained what I would have to do to bring it back to life and restore it to use. It would need, cleaning, reshaping on the rim, a band on the cracked shank that would leave the stamping readable, and a reworking of the stem to make it a fitting addition to the lovely briar of the bowl. The pipe was going to be a fun challenge. I took these photos to give you an idea of what I saw. The previous pipeman who had fit a new stem to an old favourite pipe had done a functional job but it looked rough. It was pretty clean on the inside so it was cared for. It must have been a great smoking pipe for him to fit a new stem and not give up on it when the previous one broke or was lost. It was smokable. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition. It is hard to see but the rim top was not smooth. The lava build up was pretty thick and there were some deep nicks and chips in the flat top. The close up photos of the stem reveal the scratches in the vulcanite, the tooth marks and the worn and ill-defined button.  The oversized diameter – prettified to look nice is clear in the photos. I took photos from the side of the pipe to show the stamping on the shank and the prettified stem. In the second photo you can see the crack in the shank curving downward to the underside.I decided to address the cracked shank first. With the crack as large as it was and movable I did not want to further damage it when I worked on the stem and fit of the tenon. I knew that it needed to be banded but that would cover the stamping on the shank so adjustments would have to be made. I used a Dremel and sanding drum to reduce the size of the shank to fit the band I had chosen. I did not take of too much briar and I only damaged the M in Made In England as part of it would end up being covered by the band.I repaired the crack in the shank with super glue and pressure fit the band onto the shank to the point of the end of the sanded portion. I used a Dremel and sanding drum to cut back the band to the width that I wanted. Compare the photos above with the one below to see how much I took off of the band. I topped the band on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper and smooth out the sharp edge with 1500 grit micromesh. I decided that since I was already working with the Dremel and sanding drum that I would take down the excess diameter on the stem as well. I reduced it to sit snugly against the band giving the pipe a classy look.I cleaned up around the inside edge of the band and edge on the shank with a folded piece of 2220 grit sandpaper to smooth things out and make the fit and transition smooth. I lightly sanded the blade portion of the stem and the area of the tooth marks next to the button with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and clean it up. I fit the stem in the shank and took a photo of the pipe at this point in the process. It was beginning to look like a classic BBB to my eye. With the stem roughly fit to the shank it was time to address the bowl top. I topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. At that point I called it a night. I had to catch a train down to the southern part of Washington from Vancouver in the morning so I thought I would bag up a couple of pipes I was working on and take them with me.I caught the train south from Vancouver, BC at 6:30am. Once we had our seats we were in for an 8 hour train ride. I figure it would be a good opportunity to work on these two pipes. You can see my work table in the photo below. I used the fold down table. It had a lip around it so I spread out a couple of napkins for the dust and went to work on the pipes.I started working on the BBB by addressing the damage to the inner edge of the rim. It was significant with cuts and burns. My topping worked had helped with the top damage and smoothed that out but I need to work on the rim edge. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the sharp edges and bring the bowl back to round. Once I had the rim as round as I could get it and smoothed out the damaged edge I polished it with micromesh sanding pads. I polished the bowl and the rim at the same time. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp napkin after each pad. I touched up the stain around the front of the band and stained the rim top and inner edge with Maple and Cherry stain pens. Together the two stains matched the rest of the bowl.I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little wall and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The rim matches well but still needs to be polished and buffed to raise a shine on it. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to reshape the button and also to smooth out the marks left by the Dremel when reducing the diameter of the stem. I sanded the tooth marks near the button on each side of the stem to smooth them out.I polished the stem, tenon and metal work with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I was able to remove the damage on the tenon and polish out the dripping varnish on the metal adornment. The stem looked much better at this point in the process. I the polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches and raise the shine. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. This turned out to be a beautiful little pocket pipe in terms of shape and finish. The new nickel band adds a touch of class in my opinion and gives the pipe a new elegance. I look forward to hearing what the fellow who dropped it off for repair thinks of it once he has it in hand and is smoking it. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 4 inches, Height: 1 3/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 inch, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.

Finishing the Restoration and Restemming a Custom-Bilt Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben Wade’s in the House, Part 2


Blog by Joe Gibson

Finished Pipes, ready for an afternoon smoke. The tobacco is last tin of out of production Viking Odin’s Wind.

Which Stem for Which Pipe?

When the Ben Wades arrived, the Martinique came with a beautiful, amber colored but transparent acrylic stem. There was a minor amount of tooth chatter near the bit, but nothing I felt the need to repair. The airway, on the other hand, was black from being smoked. The stem was tight in the mortise and didn’t readily pull out.

The Royal Grain, as I mentioned in the previous post, still had a vulcanite tenon stuck in the mortise. I decided to work on the Martinique stem first and deal with finding a stem for the Royal Grain later.

Cleaning the Perspex Stem

The Perspex stem before cleaning.

The first problem was separating the stem from bowl without breaking anything. Since I planned on soaking the bowl in alcohol, I dipped the pipe and stem in the jar and let it set for a minute or two. The stem then came off the pipe easily and I rinsed it off in clean water.

With oxidized vulcanite stems, I do an Oxyclean soak to bring the oxidation to the surface. I’ve never tried an Oxyclean bath on acrylic or Perspex stems. With those, I usually just wipe the outside down with alcohol and do the inside with pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol. The one thing you never want to do is soak the stems in alcohol. It could possibly cause “crazing” or cracks in the airway. Some

people even report stems breaking after soaking in alcohol.

Tip #1: The shank brush tool is great for cleaning tobacco residue from the bit. I find it does the job faster than just pipe cleaners.

I was hoping dipping regular, tapered pipe cleaners in alcohol would remove the discoloration from the airway and sterilize it. And it did, to an extent. After 10 pipe cleaners the airway was a little cleaner, but I could still see the old tobacco stain. I probably would have gone to my bristle pipe cleaners, but I didn’t The solution for this situation? I switched to a shank brush pipe tool. It’s ideal for cleaning the shank and  the tenon and airway of a pipe stem. I dip it in alcohol and run it through the stem until it comes out fairly clean. I follow that with pipe cleaners dipped in water.

The Royal Grain Stem Replacement. Maybe?

Initially I planned to have a stem made for the Royal Grain. Then I remembered the Preben Holm stem I had sitting in my desk. It’s a mismatched stem from a Søren freehand I bought in early August. I easily removed the broken tenon by inserted a drill bit into the airway by hand and twisting and pulling it out.

Tip #2: When buying pipes in “junktique” shops and malls, check the stems for stamps or logos. It will help you identify the pipes and may also tell you if the stem is the correct one for the pipe. I use mismatch stems as a point in talking the seller into lowering the price.

Black Vulcanite Preben Holm stem and a Perspex Ben Wade

Stems are usually made to fit the pipe it’s going with and I have never found one stem to perfectly fit a pipe other than the one it’s made for.

The Preben Holm stem fitted the Royal Grain. Maybe a tighter fit than I like, but it a fit and I can always work on the mortise or tenon to make it better. On top of that, a friend from one of the pipe forums, had a Ben Wade stem he is sending me. One way or the other I have a stem for the Royal Grain. Or, did I?

 

But Which Stem for Which Pipe?

So, there I was. Sitting with two clean and polished pipe bowls and two stems. I picked up the Perspex stem and inserted it back into the Martinique. And, the bowl almost slipped off the stem. The logo on the Perspex is the Ben Wade logo. This should fit.

I’m guessing that the fit was so tight at the start because both the mortise and the tenon was so dirty. Once the cleaning removed the residue, it became loose.

Just on a lark, I decided to try the Perspex stem on the Royal Grain and it slid into place easily and looked like it was made for it. I also liked the way the amber color matches to the darker finish of the Royal Grain.

I then inserted the vulcanite Preben Holm stem into the Martinique. It is a snug fit but not a tight fit. May not be the original stem, but it is close enough.

Part 1: Ben Wades in the House

© J. Gibson Creative Services. September 5, 2018

Ben Wade’s in the House, Part 1


Blog by Joe Gibson

Not Ben Wade the U.S. politician or Ben Wade the baseball player and scout, but Ben Wade pipes. Specifically, a Ben Wade Martinique and a Ben Wade Royal Grain produced by Preben Holm in Denmark.

I first saw the Martinique and the bowl for the Royal Grain at Penny’s Little Flea Market just outside of Marion, MS two weeks ago. They were tempting targets, but I passed on them for a Preben Holm Delight. I kept thinking about the Ben Wades. Finally, the wife told me to call and see if I could buy them. They arrived two days later.

Pre-cleaning Preparation

Honestly, my first thought was, “What did I get into here?” The bowls were covered in dirt and grime.

Before Cleaning. (left) Royal Grain, (right) Martinique

The bowls had scratches and I couldn’t tell how deep they were. The good news? No heavy cake and funky, sour smells. Still, I decided that best course was a 24-hour soak in isopropyl alcohol.

The Perspex stem on the Martinique had very minor tooth chatter near the bit and was dirty. It was also stuck and took a few minutes to loosen enough to pull out. Since I planned on doing an alcohol bath, I dipped the pipe and stem in the alcohol for a few minutes and allowed me to separate the two.

The Royal Grain had its own issue which I didn’t remember seeing. The mortise still had the broken tenon of a vulcanite stem still stuck in it. I resolved this issue by twisting a drill bit into the airway BY HAND. The bit dug just enough into the vulcanite that I was able to pull the tenon out. My guess is the pipe was dropped and the stem broke off because the tenon really came out easy. Finding a new stem would be a later problem.

Both pipes have some of the plateau around the rim. The Royal Grain looked like more worn down of the two, almost like the previous owner hammered the rim on his ashtray.

As I decided earlier, I dropped both pipes into containers of isopropyl alcohol and left them alone for 24 hours.

Bowl and Airway Cleaning

After the soak, I cleaned the airway and draught hole first.  My reasoning behind working on the airway, draught hole and bowl first is simple. The cake and any residue is still saturated and soft. I think this makes any reaming I have to do easier.

Using bristle pipe cleaner dipped in the same alcohol, made relatively quick work of removing cake and residue from the airway. It also opened up the draught hole. Ten pipe cleaners later and I was satisfied with the cleanliness of the airway.

Tip #1:  I use bristle pipe cleaners for deep cleaning. Be careful on Perspex or acrylic stems as the bristles can cause some scratching in the stem airway.

After sanding with 300 and 600 Grit SandpaperFor the bowl I started with my homemade pipe knife. The biggest mistake some beginning home restorers/pipe smokers make is using a pocket knife to ream the bowl. You risk damaging the briar by using a sharp knife.  In my case, I made a pipe knife from a small folding pocket knife with about a 2-inch blade. Using my bench grinder, I rounded off the point and ground down the edge until it was almost as flat as the spine. It won’t cut paper or butter.

I should point out that I don’t ream down to bare wood but ream until the cake is thin and even all the way around. I generally finish the bowl work with 320 grit sandpaper wrapped around my index finger. This smooths out the cake even more and removes even more of the cake without damage to the briar.

Pipe Surface and Finish

One of the reasons I decided on the alcohol bath was what looked like white paint specks on the Martinique. I was hoping the alcohol would dissolve the white specks. It didn’t.  After the pipes had air dried for a couple of hours, I started working over them with 320-grit dry sandpaper.

Tip #2: Protect the stamping on the briar with painter’s masking tape before starting the sanding process.

The Martinique (top) and the Royal Grain (bottom). The Royal Grain is coated with Butcher Block Conditioner

It took a little longer on the Martinique because of the white specks and the curved areas. After wiping off the sanding residue with an alcohol wipe, a second sanding of the Martinique removed all the specks and the surface scratches.  The Royal Grain, being a more smooth, flatter surface was easier to sand.

After the initial dry sanding, I started wet sanding with 600-grit sandpaper. Let me point out something here. I make the decision to wet or dry sand a pipe based on how I see the pipe at the time. Sometimes my first step is wet sanding, sometimes I don’t wet sand until I get into the finer grits of finishing sandpaper or micro-mesh pad. The theory behind the wet sanding is that it provides a smoother, glossier finish to the wood. Whether others will agree with me or not, it works for me.

By the time I worked my way up to the 12,000 grit micro-mesh pad, I had a semi-glossy appearance and both pipes felt as smooth as glass. Normally, this is where I apply caranuba wax and buff. I went one step further and applied Howard Butcher Block Conditioner to the Royal Grain. The condition contains a food grade mineral oil, beeswax and caranuba wax. Instructions were to apply with a soft cloth and let dry for 15 minutes before wiping off the excess. I used a cotton ball for the application and let it set for probably 20 minutes. I really like the color and the way the grain popped out. I resisted the temptation to do the same to the Martinique.

Next: Which Stem for Which Pipe?

© J. Gibson Creative Services. September 5, 2018

 

Crafting a New Stem for a Cortina Factory Denmark 22 Freehand Stack


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table was one that my brother Jeff picked up on an eBay auction from a seller in Franklin Tennessee almost two years ago. I know it seems like a long time ago and I suppose it is but I have boxes of pipes to refurbish here and this one came up today! It was in a box with the freehand pipes that I have been working my way through. It is an interestingly shaped sandblast pipe that is a stack. When I first looked at it I did not see any stamping on the shank. As I examined it today I found stamping on the thin band of smooth briar between the horn shank extension and the bowl. It stamped around the band and reads CORTINA FACTORY DENMARK with the shape number 22. The pipe looked pretty good when he got it from the seller. There was dirt and grime in sandblast finish on the bowl. The horn shank extension was oxidized and tired looking. There was a metal mortise inset in the horn to protect it from splitting. There was a light cake in the bowl and the inner and out edges of the bowl were in good shape. The contrast brown finish on the pipe was in excellent condition. I am not sure if the stem on the pipe was the original as the tenon was very long and the fit in the shank was snug but not deep. It was lightly oxidized but in decent condition. I think a stem with a shorter tenon and snug fit to the shank would work well. I would also see if I could shape one to follow the shape of the horn extension. I would have to see what I could find in the can of stems. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup up work. Jeff took photos of the stamping on the pipe. The first photo shows the shape number 22 on the smooth band. The second shows the CORTINA stamp on the smooth band. The third and fourth photos show the stamping Denmark Factory. The next photo shows the shank end – a mottled horn with the metal mortise insert. The stem is in place but you can see that the diameter of the tenon is smaller in diameter than the insert. The second photo below shows the striations in the horn shank extension. The stem was dented and worn. I wanted to replace it with a different stem than the replacement that came in it so I was not too concerned with the stem condition.Jeff had scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil soap and removed the dust and grime that had accumulated there. The finish looked very good once it had been scrubbed. He lightly reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He cleaned the interior of the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. The pipe came to me clean and ready to do the restoration and restemming. I took some photos of the bowl to show the condition at this point in the process. I took some photos of the horn shank extension. At first I thought it was acrylic but as I worked on it I was sure that it was real horn. It was a unique and pretty piece of polished horn. It need to be polished but it was unsplit and in good condition.As has become my practice when working on restoring pipes I did some research on the Cortina Factory Denmark brand name. Pipedia noted the brand but had no information to give in terms of the company or a time frame. I also looked on Pipephil’s site and found a listing for the brand. I have included a screen capture from that site (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-c7.html). The first pipe in the photo shows the Cortina brand and stamp that is the same as on the pipe I am working on. The second one is attached to the Georg Jensen brand and the stamping is actually very similar. It makes me wonder if the Cortina was not a line of pipes made by Georg Jensen. I have no proof of that other than the connection shown in the screen capture below.I started my restoration of the pipe armed with the little bit of information that I could find on the brand. I polished the horn shank extension with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad to remove the sanding dust. Once I had finished with the last pad I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil to enliven the horn and preserve it. I turned from the horn shank extension to work on the sandblast briar of the bowl. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the briar bowl and the rim top as well as the briar shank. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers, working it into the exterior of the pipe. I worked it into the blast with a horsehair shoe brush. After it had been sitting for a little while I buffed it with a soft cloth to polish it. The pipe really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I had a stem in my can of stems that had turned portions that as the shape of the shank extension on the pipe. Once the stem is cleaned up I will point out the shapes more clearly. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to shape the tenon to fit in the mortise. I sanded the oxidation to remove it from the rest of the stem. I took a photo of the new stem next to the one that had come with the bowl. You can see the variation in the shape of the stem. The top one has a very long tenon that fit into the shank up to the spot where the oxidation begins. It is longer than the new stem and the shape is not quite right. On the new stem I have boxed in the shapes in red that parallel the shape of the shank extension.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust on the acrylic. I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and I set it aside to dry. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The contrasting brown stain on the sandblast, the variegated swirls in the horn shank extension and the polished vulcanite stem worked together to give the pipe a unique look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This is one of those interesting unknown Danish Pipes that I think could possibly lead back to Georg Jensen but we will probably never know for sure. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 2 1/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. This one will be added to the rebornpipes store soon. If you are interested in adding it to your collection send me an email to slaug@uniserve.com or send me a message on Facebook. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this piece of Danish pipe making history.