Tag Archives: restemming

Restemming a Stanwell Design Choice 892 Ukelele with a proper stem


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table is one that was purchased in 2020 from an auction in Bloomingdale, New York, USA. It has been here for a while and I am just now getting to it. Work has been demanding so it is slowing down my restoration work a bit. This flat bowled volcano shaped pipe obviously has a a poorly fit replacement stem that has made it into an odd shaped churchwarden. I don’t think that it looked like this when it came out but I had no idea what it would have looked like before. It has a really mix of grains around the bowl and shank. It was stamped on the underside of the shank and it reads Stanwell [over] Design [over] Choice [over] Made in Denmark. To the left of this it is stamped with the shape numbers 892. The pipe was dirty with grime ground into the finish. There was a moderate cake in the bowl and lava overflow on the rim top. The inner edge of the rim was covered in lava it was hard to know what was underneath. The vulcanite shank extension was oxidized and worn. The churchwarden stem is overly bent and the fit in the shank extension is not quite right – just a few of several reasons that I knew it was a replacement stem. Jeff took some photos of the pipe before he started to work on cleaning it up for us. Jeff took photos of the rim top and the stem to show the condition of the pipe when we received it. You can see the cake in the bowl and the lava on the rim top and inner edge of the bowl. The oxidized and replacement churchwarden vulcanite stem was over bent and would need to be straightened or replaced with a more original stem. This one has chatter and deep tooth marks on both sides near the button. He took photos of the sides of the bowl and the heel to give an idea of the shape and the condition of the briar around the bowl. It really is a nicely shaped pipe with some great grain. There are some flaws in briar on the bottom of the bowl. The next photo Jeff took shows the stamping on the underside of the shank. It is clear and readable as noted above. I Googled the Stanwell shape 892 Design Choice pipe to see if I could find photos of what the pipe looked like when it was made and to see if I could see if there was information on who had made the pipe originally. I found a link to the shape on smokingpipes.com to the shape number (https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/estate/denmark/moreinfo.cfm?product_id=238398). I have included the description from the site below as well as a photo of one of the pipes.

A shape designed for Stanwell by Sixten Ivarsson, this is a take on the Ukelele, with plenty of plump curvature and low-slung charm on display. This example is still in good condition overall, though it has picked up some light scratches around the bowl, and the chamber is slightly out of round.Now I knew that I was dealing with a shape designed by Sixten Ivarrson called a Ukelele that had a short fancy saddle stem and there was no reference anywhere I looked for a churchwarden stemmed Ukelele. I would need to fashion a new stem for the pipe to give the pipe a similar look to the one above.

Jeff had cleaned up the pipe following his normal cleaning process. In short, he reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife.  He scrubbed the smooth bowl with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap with a tooth brush. He worked over the lava and debris on the rim top and was able to remove it. He rinsed it under running warm water to remove the soap and grime. He cleaned out the inside of the shank and the airway in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub and cotton pads to remove the debris and oils on the stem. He soaked it in a bath of Briarville’s Pipe Stem Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation. He rinsed it with warm water and dried it off. I took photos of the pipe once I received it. It really looked good but I was more convinced than ever that a new stem was needed. I decided that I would work on this stem while I was looking for a new stem.I took close up photos of the stem and the rim top to show both how clean they were and what needed to be addresses with both. The rim top and bowl look good. The edge was clean but there was some damage on the rim top at the front of the bowl. The Churchwarden stem looked better and the tooth marks and chatter were still present. I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. You can see from the photo that it is readable.I removed the stem from the bowl and took a photo of the parts to give a sense of the beauty of the pipe. I started my work on the pipe by addressing the flaws in the bottom of the bowl. Under a lens there were small sand pits along the line of the CA glue that I filled them with in the photo below. Once the repair cured I sanded it smooth with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to blend it into the surrounding briar. I polished the smooth briar and the vulcanite shank extension with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-4000 grit pads to smooth out the surface of the briar and the repair on the bottom of the bowl. I wiped the bowl down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. The briar began to take on a shine. I paused after polishing the bowl with the 4000 grit micromesh pad to stain the repair on the bottom of the bowl. I used a Maple stain pen to match the surrounding briar. Once the stain cured I finished polishing the bowl with 6000-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads. The bowl really did begin to shine. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm working it into the briar with my finger tips. The product works to clean, revive and protect the briar. I let it sit on the pipe for 10 minutes then buffed it off with a soft cloth.   I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I decided to deal with the stem even though I would replace it on the finished pipe. I straightened the churchwarden stem with a heat gun to get the angle more in keeping with the angles of the shank. I sanded out the tooth marks on both sides of the stem at the button with 220 grit sandpaper and started the polishing with 400 grit sandpaper.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it 1500-12000 pads. I wiped it down with some Obsidian Oil each pad to remove the dust and polishing debris. I polished it with Before After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. Now that the churchwarden stem was finished I turned my attention to a shorter stem that I shaped to match the one in the photo from smokingpipes.com. I used a stem blank that I shaped with a Dremel and sanding drum. I shaped the saddle above the tenon to flow into the blade of the stem. I also shaped the tenon area to also have the same slope. I wanted  the slope on both sides to match. I used 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the angles. I took photos of the newly shaped stem in place in the bowl. I like the looks of the pipe with the new stem. I heated the vulcanite with the flame of a lighter to soften the stem and give it a slight bend. The bend fit the angles of the shank and allowed it to sit on the desktop.I put the stem on the pipe and took photos of the pipe with its new stem. I looked very good and the angles were perfect. I liked the way the pipe looked at this point.I polished the new stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it 1500-12000 pads. I wiped it down with some Obsidian Oil each pad to remove the dust and polishing debris. I polished it with Before After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. This is another pipe that I am really happy about the finished restoration. This reborn Stanwell Ivarrson Designed Ukelele turned out really well. I used a blank to shape and craft a new stem for it as the churchwarden stem just did not work well. After restemming I think that it really is a great looking pipe with a great shape and grain. The bowl is flattened volcano shape and the vulcanite shank extension goes well with it. The new vulcanite saddle stem is very close to the original stem that would have come with the pipe when it was new. The polished black of the stem works well with the briar. The briar really came alive with the buffing. The rich brown stains of the finish make the grain really pop with the polishing and waxing. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Stanwell Design Choice Ukelele really has a unique beauty and feels great in the hand. It looks very good. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 ¼ inches, Height: 1 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 55 grams/1.98 oz. The pipe will be going on the rebornpipes store soon. It will be in the section on Danish Pipe Makers if you would like to add it to your collection. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. It was a fun one to work on!

Resurrecting an Abdulla Dribaccy Shark Skin Chubby Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table came to me from friend who picked it up because of the name and the description. He liked the look of the pipe and sent me an email to see what I thought of it. He included a link to the eBay sale so I could check it out myself.

Steve, I’m asking if you would take a look at this listing and tell me what you think, as it certainly needs stem work. https://www.ebay.com/itm/RARE-Early-Vintage-ABDULLA-DRIBACCY-SHARK-SKIN-Briar-Pipe-London-Made-/193674187402?_trksid=p2349624.m46890.l49292

I’m a storyteller by profession (a business writer) and this one just has a great story to tell. I keep going back to it. And I’d be sorry to see it with a replacement stem. Is it salvageable? And is it something you’d be willing to do? Just let me know what you think. Any advice is appreciated.

(I think the asking price is high, but I think he’ll budge.)

Best regards, Baker

I clicked on the link and followed it to the listing. The seller described the pipe and its stamping as follows:

RARE Early Vintage ABDULLA DRIBACCY SHARK SKIN Briar Pipe. This early Shark Skin model is early vintage, my research while not conclusive would put it at 1940s or earlier and made in London. An old French ad in the photos suggests it is Shark Skin #2418. The pipe is in very good condition limited darkening of the rim or tar build up in the bowl. Stem has no visible chatter with rubber tip, see photo of tip with a minor chip of the vulcanite under the rubber tip. (I have included that old French Ad below).I went through all of the photos that were included in the listing on eBay and saved them. They tell the story of the current state of the pipe. It is a chubby billiard with a nice sandblast finish. As I looked it over it was clear to me that the stem was a replacement and a bit more oval than the shank. Whoever had replaced the stem had reduced the diameter of the shank and shouldered it down in size to match the stem. They had then rusticated the shank end coning to look better than a smooth finish. The stem itself was rustic to say the least with file marks on the top and underside that left it rough. There was a rubber Softee Bit on the end of the stem to cover up something that was not clear to me. As you scroll through the photos you can see the  poor shaping to the shank end that was done to fit a smaller stem.  The seller also included photos of the rim top and bowl to give a clear picture of the condition of the rim top and bowl. It was in very good condition with a light cake in the bowl. He also took photos of the stem that was on the pipe. You can see that the shank and stem have different diameters. You can also see the chip off the end of the stem in rubber Softee Bit. The seller included photos of the sides and heel of the bowl to give a picture of what the briar looked like. There is some nice grain showing through the sandblast around the sides. You can also see the way the shank has been sanded to meet the stem… it is quite obviously a poor fit. The stamping on the underside of the shank was also shown in the seller’s photos. It was clear and readable – ABDULLA [over] Dribaccy Pipe [over] Shank Skin.He also took a photo of the bowl with the stem removed. The stem has a very short filter tenon that has been cut down and shortened to fit. I sent Baker my assessment of the pipe. I let him know what I saw in terms of the bowl and the stem and my thoughts about it being a poorly fit replacement. I also told him about the way that I thought the stem was reshaped and tapered to match the stem diameter. I also mentioned what I thought about the button being broken off and the rubber Softee Bit covering the damaged stem. Baker thanked me and said he was reconsidering about the pipe. Not long after that I received another email from him that I have included below.

Hey Steve…

I received the Abdulla pipe today and have enclosed a few additional photos that may give you a closer look at the suspect areas. The bowl is in good shape but doesn’t show much of a cake. I’m wondering if the original stem wasn’t lost or broken. It’s a filter pipe, which I hadn’t realized but that doesn’t surprise me either.

Are you willing to tackle it? I don’t have a lot invested here. I’d just like to give it a rescue and spend some enjoyable time with it if I can.

Best regards, Baker I wrote back and told him I would take it on and see what I could do. Before it arrived I did a bit of research on the brand and have included that below.

I turned to Pipephil (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-a1.html) to find if there as any information included on the brand. There was very little information listed. It states that it is a brand of the Abdulla & Co. Ltd. I have included a screen capture of the listing for the brand.I turned then to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/wiki/British_Pipe_Brands_%26_Makers_A_-_D).   There was limited information there on the brand. It stated that it was “A brand of Abdulla & Co Ltd.”

I googled Abdulla & Company Ltd to see what I could find. There were several links that gave some interesting information. The first of these includes some information on the company. It seems to have existed from 1917-1927 when it was purchased by Godfrey Phillips which kept the company name. (http://www.cigarettespedia.com/index.php/ManufacturerAbdulla_&_Co._Ltd).

Abdulla & Company, Ltd. — The company was founded in London, England, in 1902, and were most famous for their eponymous cigarette brand, which they made in various blends (Egyptian, Virginian, and Turkish). In 1917, Abdulla moved their headquarters to 173 New Bond Street in Mayfair (formerly the location of the Fabergé shop, and currently home to Chanel), and opened a branch in the Netherlands in 1923.

Around 1927, Abdulla & Company was purchased by a larger competitor, Godfrey Phillips, which kept the company name and brands going. In 1968, Godfrey Phillips U.K. was purchased by Philip Morris International.

I also found a short listing from the UK National Archives stating that the brand was known as Cigarette Specialists and was at 173 New Bond Street in London, England. (https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/ae36e330-54d9-4988-bd5a-ffc87ab77e20).

Abdulla & Co. Ltd. (cigarette-specialists; 173, New Bond St., London, W.1).

Reference:       PA/101/12/680

Title:   Abdulla & Co. Ltd. (cigarette-specialists; 173, New Bond St., London, W.1).

Date:   28th June, 1929

Finally I found an interesting photo of one of their cigarette boxes that say it is and always has been an Entirely British Firm (https://collection.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/objects/co8102857/packet-of-ten-abdulla-cigarettes-cigarette-packet).

Now it was time to work on the pipe itself. The pipe arrived this week. It was quite clean on the outside but smelled strongly of English tobaccos (which I think smells good!). The bowl had a light cake in it and the fit of stem was even more obviously wrong when I examined it. The coned end of the shank was odd for this pipe. The stem was in rough condition with a lot of file marks on the flat sides and scratching around the sides. I am always suspicious of rubber Softee Bits as they tend to be a quick fix to a bigger problem underneath. Once I removed it I would have a better idea. I took photos of the pipe when I received it.  I took a close up of the bowl and rim top to give a picture of the condition and the light cake in the bowl. I also included photos of the stem that came with it for reference as I was planning on replacing it.    I took a photo of the stamping on the shank that also showed the sanded shank end.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the short tenon and the poor cut that left it at an angle.I decided to address the coned shank end but applying a thin brass band that would square it up again and get rid of that damage. I went through my bands and had a perfect one that was brass and thin profile. I went through my stems for a stem that was chunky and tapered and would work with this pipe. I took a photo of the new parts.Now it was time to set the new band on the shank. I used a dental spatula to apply all purpose glue to the end of the shank and spread it around. I pressed the band in place and wiped off the excess glue. Once the glue cured I took photos of the banded shank to show the change. The coned end had disappeared and the line of the shank was now flat once again from the back of the bowl to the shank end.  Now it was time to clean the bowl and shank. I reamed out the light cake with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and took it back to bare briar. I cleaned out the shank and airway to the bowl with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils.   With the internals finished I turned to the exterior of the bowl and shank. I worked Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the bowl sides and shank with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The grain came alive and the fills while visible look better than when I began.    I set the bowl aside and turned to work on the stem. I decided that before I started on the new stem I wanted to see what was hidden under the Softee Bit. I slipped it off the end of the stem and low and behold I found a broken off stem. No telling if the seller knew this or not but it was clearly not the original stem and definitely needed to be replaced.The news stem was definitely going to take a bit of work to get a smooth transition between the shank and the stem. The stem is significantly bigger in diameter than the shank (first picture below). I used a Dremel and sanding drum to start the process of removing the excess diameter of the stem. I also did a bit of step down on the tenon so it would fit the end of the mortise more smoothly (second and third photo below). It was getting there but there was still a lot of work to do to get the fit right! I used a file to further remove the excess diameter and to shape the stem for smooth flow down the length of the sides. It is too easy to get a great fit at the shank end and then have the stem balloon out on the length of the sides… I was aiming to avoid that. Once I had the transition smooth with the file I finished shaping it with 150 grit sandpaper. Once I had finished the pipe was looking very good. I sent Baker a message with photos asking about the bend in the stem suggesting that we leave it and he was fine with that.I took some photos of the pipe as it stood before I polished the stem. I liked what I saw and the fit was perfect. The transition was smooth and flawless. I polished the brass band on the shank end with micromesh sanding pads. I used 1500-2400 to remove the scratching in the brass. Once I buffed the pipe it would polish the band the rest of the way. At this point it is looking very good.  I moved on to polishing the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I dry sanded it with 1500-12000 grit pads to polish it and bring out a shine in the rubber. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Fine and Extra Fine polishes and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil at the end. I was pleased with the look of the stem.   This Abdulla British Made Drybaccy Shark Skin Billiard is a great looking pipe now that it has been restored, restemmed and banded. It really is a piece of pipe history of a little known brand that was quite well known in its day. The shark skin finish (sandblast) around the bowl is quite beautiful and highlights the grain and works well with the new polished hard rubber taper stem. I put the stem back on the bowl and carefully buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel using a light touch on the briar. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Abdulla Billiard fits nicely in the hand and feels great. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 57 grams/ 2.01 ounces. I have one more pipe to restore for Baker and then will be sending them back to him to enjoy! Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. There are many more to come!

Restemming and Transforming a “Hialeah” Pipe From My Inherited Lot


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

After I had completed the Butz- Choquin A Metz No. 2 pipe (Restoring An Early Butz Choquin “A Metz” No. 2 | rebornpipes), I rummaged through the fast dwindling pile of 40 odd pipes that Abha, my wife, had cleaned up for me to complete my part of further repairs and restoration work.

The pipe that I have selected is one from the huge lot of my grandfather’s pipes that I had inherited. This pipe had always caught my fancy on account of the wonderfully thin, tightly packed straight grains that are seen all around the stummel and shank and also due to its peculiar shape, a rather tall bowl (but not a stack!) with a longish shank and an equally long saddle stem. Overall, it definitely looked quirky to say the least, it’s a LOVAT shape on account of the round shank and a saddle bit but not a classic LOVAT since the stem is as long as the shank!! It’s the carver’s take on a classic shape, I guess. However, there was something about the stem that seemed wrong at the first glance. It was for this reason that the pipe always fell out of favor in the lineup of pipes for restoration. Here are a couple of pictures of the pipe that shows the pipe before Abha, my wife, had done the initial cleaning. From the pictures below, it is amply evident that the stem is not aligned straight in reference to the shank, but is skewed more towards the left (evidenced in the second picture).This pipe has some beautiful densely packed thin straight, also referred to as “Angel hair” grains all around the tall bowl and over the long shank surface. The only stampings seen on this pipe are over the left shank surface and is stamped as “HIALEAH” over “ALGERIAN BRIAR”. These stampings are crisp and clear. The long saddle vulcanite stem is devoid of any stampings.I looked for information on this brand on rebornpipes.com. Unfortunately the search yielded no results (a surprise for sure!!). Next I turned to pipedia.org to understand and establish the provenance of the pipe brand. There is not much information that was noted in the article, but was sufficient to give me an idea of the brand and period of operations. Here is the link to the webpage:-

Hialeah – Pipedia  I quote from the article; “From what I’ve found on the web HIALEAH pipes were sold by Whitehall Products Co. (a division of Helme Products) prior to 1975. Whitehall was in Wheeling, West Virginia, and Helme somewhere in New Jersey. All I’ve seen have been made of Algerian Briar and are reported to be great smokers”.

Thus, this pipe definitely dates to pre-1975

Initial Visual Inspection
Abha, in a deviation from her thumb rule of not taking any “BEFORE” pictures, had taken a few pictures of the pipe to highlight the condition of the pipe before she commenced her initial clean up for me.

The chamber had a thick layer of cake with heavy overflow of lava over the rim top surface. The inner rim edge appears to be uneven while the outer rim edge appears sans any damage. The exact condition of the edges will be ascertained once the lava overflow from the rim top surface is removed and the surface is cleaned up. The draught hole is in the dead center and at the bottom of the chamber and this construction should make it a great smoke.The stummel surface was covered in dust and grime of years of usage and subsequent storage. The stummel has developed dark hues of browns and has scratches and dings over the surface, most notably to the heel and front of the stummel. However under all the dust and grime, beautiful tight Angel hair grains are awaiting to be brought to the fore. There are a couple of fills, one to the front of the stummel and another to the shank very close to the stampings. The mortise has traces of old oils and tars, restricting the air flow through the mortise. Whether to refresh the fills or let them be will be decided once the stummel is cleaned and the fills are checked for softness thereafter.  The long vulcanite saddle stem is heavily oxidized with minor tooth chatter in the bite zone. The stem is skewed to the left immediately after the saddle portion of the stem. This flaw makes me believe it to be a shaping issue more than anything and further points to the likelihood of the stem to be handmade. Steve also concurred with my assumptions when we discussed the restoration during one of our video calls. He also pointed out that there was no way to right this wrong other than replacing the stem.Initial Cleaning By Abha…
The initial cleaning on this pipe was done by Abha, my wife (she has cleaned up around 40-50 pipes and these have now reached me for further restoration). She reamed out the complete cake and further smoothed out the chamber walls with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. She further cleaned out the internals of the shank with pipe cleaners and alcohol and cotton buds. She followed the internal cleaning of the shank with external cleaning of the stummel using Murphy’s Oil soap and hard bristled tooth brush and dried it with paper napkins and cotton cloth.

Next she cleaned out the internals of the stem air way and immersed it in “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution along with the stem of other pipes in line for restoration. Once the stem had soaked overnight, she cleaned the stem under running warm water and scrubbed the raised oxidation from the stem surface using Scotch Brite pad. She further removed the oxidation by scrubbing the stem with 0000 grade steel wool and applied a little olive oil to rehydrate the stem.

Once The Pipe Is On My Work Table…
The cleaned up pipes presents a very clear picture of what needs to be done to restore this pipe to a decent and smokable condition. I really cannot thank Abha enough for all the help and support that she extends me in my pursuance of this hobby. I proceed to carry out my appreciation of the work that needs to be done on this pipe to restore it.

As with all the cleaned pipes that Abha packs, there was a note in the zip lock pouch with issues that she had observed in the pipe. The first point was that the chamber has developed heat fissures. The second point was that she was not happy with the shape of the stem and it appeared odd. Also the seating of the stem in to the mortise was very loose. Here are the pictures of the pipe as I had received. The chamber does appear to have developed heat fissures (indicated with red arrows). The rim top surface is darkened all around, more so at the back of the rim surface. The inner rim edge is uneven while the outer edge is slightly charred in 1 o’clock direction and is encircled in yellow. Close scrutiny of the chamber walls made me realize that there is still a very thin layer of cake in the chamber and it is my experience that this gives an appearance of heat fissures! Only after the cake has been completely removed will I be able to confirm presence of heat fissures or otherwise.The stummel is nice and clean but would benefit from polishing to rejuvenate and bring a nice shine over the briar surface. There is a large fill over the left shank surface and very close to the stampings (encircled in yellow). The fill is solid and I wouldn’t take the risk of refreshing it due to its proximity to the stampings. There are a few dings to the front of the bowl (encircled in red) that would need to be addressed. The mortise has no chips or cracks to the shank face/ shank. There are a few minor pockets of old oils and tars that are seen on the walls of the mortise and would require some invasive measures to eliminate completely.Since the stem would be replaced, I shall not dwell in detail about the stem condition, but am including a few pictures of the stem to show its condition as well as give the readers a perspective about the incorrect shape imparted to the stem at the time it was crafted.The Process
The first issue to be addressed in this project was to replace the original poorly crafted stem. Steve and I went through my small stash of spare stems and selected a small bent saddle stem that was stamped on the left as “ROPP” on a steel roundel. This stem would impart a classic Lovat shape to the pipe and vastly improve the aesthetics of the pipe, or so we thought. Here is how the pipe looks with this bent saddle stem. The tenon would need to be sanded down for it to seat in to the mortise and this would be the trickiest part of this stem replacement. I would have to be very careful to sand the tenon evenly and equally from all around, frequently checking for a snug fit in to the mortise. The replacement vulcanite saddle stem is in perfect condition with no damage to the button or in the bite zone, save for some minor oxidation and very light tooth chatter. I would need to first straighten out the stem followed by sanding the tenon for a snug fit in to the mortise. Only once these issues are addressed would I be progressing to removing the “ROPP” stamped steel plate and filling the area left behind by the removal of the steel plate.

I began the restoration of this pipe by first addressing the suspected heat fissures in the chamber walls. I worked on the stummel by reaming the chamber with a PipNet pipe reamer using the size 3 head. With my fabricated knife, I removed the remaining carbon deposit. Once the cake was reamed back to the bare briar, I used a 150 grit sand paper followed by 220 grit sand paper to remove all the traces of remaining cake and also to smooth out the inner walls of the chamber surface. Finally, to remove the residual carbon dust, I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with 99.9% pure isopropyl alcohol. I was very pleased to note that the chamber walls are sans any damage.With the bowl internals clean, I move to clean the exterior of the stummel, specially the rim top surface. I used a hard bristled tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil soap to scrub the stummel and rim top. After the scrub with oil soap, I washed the stummel under running warm water with anti oil dish washing detergent till the stummel surface was clean and dried it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth. I simultaneously cleaned the shank internals with the detergent and hard bristled shank brush and set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. The smooth stummel surface has cleaned up nicely with the beautiful Angel hair grain patterns on full display. There are two major fills that are now plainly visible (encircled in green), but they are solid and I shall avoid refreshing them. The darkening and unevenness of the inner rim edge is evident and over reamed in the 1 o’clock direction (encircled in yellow). The ghost smells are completely eliminated and the pipe now smells fresh, odorless and clean. The shank air way is nice and open. I am sure that the pipe will turn out to be a fantastic smoker with a full wide and open draw. Now that I had a fair idea of the extent of topping required to the rim surface, I top the rim on a piece of 220 grit sand paper to address the rim surface darkening, dents and dings. I addressed the uneven inner edge by creating a light bevel to inner edge with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and index finger. To further smooth out the scratches left behind by the abrasive 220 girt sand paper, I top the rim surface on a piece of 400 grit sand paper. I am very happy at the way the chamber and rim top surface appears at this point in restoration. Next, I decided to address the dents and dings on the stummel surface, notably to the front of the bowl (encircled in pastel blue). Using a whitener pen, I marked all the major areas with dents and dings as I had decided to leave the minor ones as they were. I heated my fabricated knife over the flame of a candle, placed a wet Turkish hand towel over the marked areas and steamed out the dents by placing the heated knife over the towel. The steam generated by placing a hot knife on the wet towel helps the briar to expand within these dents and dings, making for a smooth and even surface. To further even out the remaining dings, I lightly sand the entire stummel with a folded piece of worn out 180 grit sand paper. The stummel appears much better and smooth at this juncture. With the stummel repairs completed, I turned my attention to the replacement stem. The first thing that needed to be done was to straighten the stem. I cleaned the stem internals first and inserted a regular pipe cleaner through the stem airway. This prevents the airway from collapsing when the stem is heated to straighten it. With a heat gun, I heated the stem at the point where the stem was bent, rotating the stem frequently to ensure even heating. Once the stem was pliable, I straightened the stem with my hands by placing it on the flat table. After the stem had cooled down sufficiently, I held it under cold running water to set the straightened shape. Now that the stem was straightened, the next step was to ensure a snug fit of the tenon in to the mortise. Since the tenon was not too large as compared to the mortise, I got down to the arduous and time consuming task of manually sanding down the tenon with a folded piece of 180 grit sandpaper till I had achieved a perfect seating of the tenon in to the mortise. My previous experience had taught me an invaluable lesson; “SAND ONCE AND CHECK TWICE”!! Here I was extra careful and vigilant while sanding the sides of the tenon and frequently checked the alignment of the stem airway, the shank airway and finally, the draught hole. Excess sanding of any one side of the tenon disturbs this alignment even though the seating may appear to be snug and seamless. I gave a final check to the progress being made and the seating was perfectly snug with all the airways perfectly aligned. I am very happy with the progress up to this point!!Close scrutiny of the seating of the tenon in to the mortise under camera magnification revealed a slight gap at the stem and shank face junction. With a folded piece of 180 grit sandpaper, I sand the base of the tenon until I had achieved a seamless and flushed seating of the stem. Discerning Readers must have noticed a dark line starting from the shank end and extending for about an inch and a half towards the bowl (indicated with green arrows). I too thought (with a cringe) that the shank had cracked in the process, but let me assure you that the shank is not cracked and is in fact a dark strand of straight grain…that was really a big relief!!Once I had achieved a snug fit of the tenon in to the mortise, I checked for the flush seating of the stem face with that of the shank and realized that the stem diameter is larger than that of the shank and the extent of sanding that would be required. This would need to be addressed.   But before I could address this issue, it was necessary that the metal plate bearing the ROPP stamping be removed and the cavity created, be filled out. Once this was done, matching the entire saddle portion with the shank face would be accurate and time saving. Using dental pick and a sharp, thin paper cutter, I removed the steel plate and cleaned the gouged out surface with a cotton pad and isopropyl alcohol. I evened out the surrounding area with a worn out piece of 180 grit sand paper and filled the cavity with a mix of CA superglue and black charcoal powder. I set the fill to cure overnight.The next day, I sand the filled cavity with a piece of 180 grit sand paper till I had achieved a rough match with the surrounding saddle surface of the stem. The filled area would be perfectly matched when I sand the entire saddle portion to match the shank face.Now, to match the stem face with the shank face, I unite the stem and the shank. With a sanding drum mounted on to my hand held rotary tool, I sand the saddle portion of the stem till I had achieved a near perfect matching of the stem face with that of the shank face. I further fine tune the match perfectly by sanding it with a 220 followed by 400 grit sand paper. The match is perfect and the pipe as a whole is now looking very nice with the new stem. It still looks very plain and would need a dash of a little bling to complete the transformation!! Also, there is a need to refill the cavity left behind by the steel plate as I noticed a few ugly air pockets. I refilled it with CA superglue and charcoal powder and set it aside for the fill to cure. To add a little bling to the appearance of the pipe, I decided to attach a brass band at the shank end. I selected a band that was a perfect fit and glued it over the shank end with CA superglue and set it aside to cure.I subjected the stummel to a complete cycle of micromesh polish, dry sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit pads. I paid greater attention to polish the rim top surface and the bevel created on the inner rim edge. I wiped the stummel with a moist cloth after every grit pad to remove the sanding dust left behind by the pads. I am happy with the progress being made till now. Just look at the beautiful grain on this piece of briar!! The briar has taken on a nice deep shine with brown of the stummel and the darker brown stains to the grain contrasting beautifully. I really like the patina that is seen over the stummel surface. However, the rim top surface appears lighter than the rest of the stummel due to the topping. I stained the lighter hued rim top surface with a combination of Dark Brown over Chestnut stain pens. I set the stummel aside for the stain to set. The stain combination has helped in perfect blending of the rim top with the rest of the stummel.Next, I turned my attention back to the stem. I began the process of final fine tuning of matching the stem face with the shank face, shaping the saddle for a sharper match with the shank flow, sanding the refill in the saddle and bringing a nice shine to the stem surface by sanding with 320, 400, 600, 800 and 1000 grit sandpapers. I had attached the stem to the shank during the entire sanding job so that I do not end up shouldering the stem face. The closer I came to the perfect match, the higher grit sand paper I used. A lot of patient and diligent work, I reached the point where I felt “no more sanding… this is the perfect seating and perfect Lovat profile!!”. My mantra “LESS IS MORE” was also playing at the back of my mind. I was very pleased with my efforts of transforming the stem as I had achieved a perfect snug seating of the stem in to the mortise and a perfectly matching shank and stem face!!

To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of sand papers and micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 grit micromesh pads. I wiped the stem with moist cloth after each pad. At the end of micromesh cycle, I polished the stem with “Before and After Fine & Extra Fine” paste. The finished stem is shown below.Turning back to the stummel, I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” deep in to the briar with my finger tips and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the Angel hair grain patterns displayed in their complete splendor. I further buffed it with a horse hair brush. The contrast of the natural lighter brown patina of the stummel with the dark browns of the grain adds an interesting dimension to the appearance of the stummel. To check and verify the correctness of the alignment of the stem airway, the tenon opening, shank/mortise airway and finally through the draught hole, I did the PIPE CLEANER TEST.  The pipe cleaner passed through cleanly and without any obstruction from the slot end right through the draught hole. I checked the draw and though it was smooth, it felt a tad bit constricted. I further opened the draw by funneling the tenon end with a thin sanding drum mounted on the hand held rotary tool. The draw is now silky smooth and effortless!! Unfortunately, I missed out on taking pictures of the process, but I am sure the readers have a general idea of what had been done.I have now reached the homestretch in this restoration project. To complete the restoration, I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and polished the stummel and stem with Blue Diamond compound. This compound helps to remove the minor scratch marks from the stem surface that remain from the sanding. I mounted another cotton buffing wheel that I have earmarked for carnauba wax and applied several coats of the wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further. The finished pipe with a new brass band looks amazingly beautiful and is ready for its new innings with me and be enjoyed for a long time.

Upgrading a ‘Lowly Drugstore Pipe’: A Dr. Grabow Omega Billiard


Blog by Dal Stanton

Ryan described his Dr. Grabow Omega as a lowly drugstore pipe – not me! 😊 He emailed me several months ago about his Dr. Grabow Omega and which set the table for what followed:

Dear Mr. Stanton, I recently came across one of your blog posts from 2017 detailing a restoration you performed on a Dr. Grabow Omega billiard. The final product was stunning and made me wonder whether you allow customers to send pipes in for restoration or whether commissions are limited to the pipes listed on your website. I ask because I also own a Dr. Grabow Omega and have always been bothered by the heavy red finish that completely obscures the grain. I wanted to ask (if outside commissions are accepted) whether you could perform the same sort of restoration on my pipe and about how much it might cost.  Thanks for any information you can provide!

Part of my response to Ryan shortly followed:

Ryan, Great to hear from you!  Thanks for your kind words regarding the restoration of the Omega I did. I think the Omega is a nice-looking pipe.  Dr. Grabow’s ‘Peterson’ and you share my problem with Dr. Grabow’s production of Omegas with the ‘candy apple’ finish.  It’s a quicker way to finish a factory pipe and it’s always a question about what lurks beneath the artificial gloss.  The Omega I did surprised me with a nice patch of briar beneath and left me with the question, why would anyone cover this grain with a finish like that?  I’m sure economics is a partial answer.  So, for your Omega, I would examine it closely to see if you can see some huge fills in the briar beneath the finish.  Even if it has fills, natural briar just beats candy apple even with sub-par blocks of briar, in my opinion. 

In our emailing back and forth, I discovered that Ryan too, was living in Europe at the time.  He had finished up his graduate work in Scotland and was teaching in the Black Forest region of Germany for the past 10 years and was also in the process of transitioning back to the US.  When he said he was in the Black Forest region of Germany, I perked up.  Several years ago two of our five children attended Black Forest Academy in Kandern, Germany – a very beautiful part of Europe which we enjoyed visiting several times.  Ryan sent me some pictures of his Omega from Germany, which he had used only a few times.  Here are the pictures Ryan sent: My impression of his pictures was that the Omega was practically new and not beat up at all.  Since we both were in the process of transitioning to the US, he from Germany and we from Bulgaria, the decision was made to wait till we both were settled on the other side of the pond and he would send the Omega to me.   Which brings us to the present – Ryan’s Dr. Grabow Omega is now on my worktable.  I am in Golden, Colorado, and Ryan is in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  We both are adjusting to our new realities!

The primary desire Ryan expressed was to allow the natural briar to emerge by removing the candy apple, thick factory finish.  He referenced seeing a restoration for another Omega I had done for Jenny, a former intern we had with us in Bulgaria.  She had commissioned several pipes from the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection to give as gifts to the special men in her family and she kept one for herself too! (See: Jen’s Trove No. 8 – Restore & Upgrade of a Dr. Grabow Omega Smooth Billiard)  The Dr. Grabow Omega she chose for one fortunate person turned out well – before and after results were striking!This was the result that Ryan compared to his Dr. Grabow factory fresh Omega finish which shrouded the natural grain.  Ryan’s Omega appears to me to be a newer pipe off the production line and differs in the nomenclature from the former older Omega I restored.  In common is that both are stamped on the left shank flank: OMEGA [over] DR. GRABOW.  The right was stamped on Jen’s Omega, IMPORTED BRIAR, which is not present on Ryan’s Omega.

In the former Omega restoration, the biggest problem that I expressed was the finish.  I did not like it!  In my research for that Omega, I found these two comments from bloggers on a Pipes Magazine Forum discussion about Dr. Grabow Omegas’ cost, quality, and appeal, which resonated with my own thoughts regarding the positives and negative:

Positives: An Omega was the first briar pipe that I ever owned. It still gets regular use and like Brewshooter, I have no complaints with it. Bowl size is a little bit smaller than I like, but it makes for a nice quick smoke, and the military mount makes it really easy to clean. I have Savinellis that I have easily paid four times more for, and sure, they smoke a little bit better, but in terms of a good smoking instrument, the Omega will do you well as long as it is smoked properly and maintained properly.

Negative: One thing I noticed about my Omega is that it had a heavy varnish or clear coat. I sanded it and gave it a nice wax. It seems to breathe a little better now and I like seeing more of the grain. I also gave the band a bit of a brushed look with some fine grain sandpaper. It’s a nice little pipe for that quick smoke.

Ryan’s desire for his Omega is to remove the ‘candy apple’ or heavy varnish finish.  He is also hopeful that there is a nice patch of briar beneath it.  I am hopeful, too!  The second issue that Ryan expressed about his Omega was that the factory stem was made of a plastic material and not rubber or vulcanite.  I could not recall that the former Omega’s stem I had restored was plastic – I believe it was indeed vulcanite because of the way it spruced up.  Ryan shared with me that his research uncovered that Dr. Grabow started using plastic stems along the way.  Ryan said he could live with the factory plastic stem but did not like it.

When Ryan’s Omega arrived, I was curious to check out the stem as well.  The seam is different from a normal precast rubber stem – the factory seam is vertically dissecting the stem rather than a horizontal seam – the norm for rubber precast stems.  The picture below shows the vertical seam that splits the P-Lip and runs up the stem.  I would say that I agree with Ryan’s assessment.  The stem is plastic.I decided to investigate whether I could find a rubber stem that would match the Omega’s Military Mount, fancy P-Lip stem.  I sent a note to Tim West at J. H. Lowe (www.jhlowe.com) where I acquire pipe supplies and included pictures for Tim to see if I could find a non-factory match for the Omega.  Ryan had indicated to me that a factory stem with the Dr. Grabow ‘Spade’ logo was not critically important to him.  Tim’s email came saying that he had a Greek rubber stem that had similar style and shape to the Dr. Grabow Wellington stems for a few dollars. He said that they were rough and needed bending and polishing – plain with no logo on the stem. I asked Tim to send it along with 5 additional Churchwarden stems.  When the stems arrived a few days ago from Tim, I was pleased with the match he provided with the Wellington stem.  The pictures below show the comparison.  The Wellington stem is precast with rough horizontal seams running down the sides of the stem rather than vertically in comparison to the factory stem.Before beginning on the upgrade of Ryan’s Omega, I take a few fresh pictures of the stummel on my worktable.  The finish is not as ‘candy apple’ acrylic as was the first Omega I restored but the finish is thick and obstructive.  In addition to the finish, the stummel has some minor dents from normal wear.  There appears to be a round fill on the right shank side.  When the stummel is cleaned, I will need to see if this apparent fill needs attention. Because I like working on clean pipes, I first use the Savinelli Fitsall Tool to scrape the chamber.  Ryan had said that he had used the pipe only a few times – the lack of carbon cake buildup confirms this.A quick spin with one pipe cleaner and one cotton bud confirms that the internals are clean.My general approach will be to emulate what I did with the first Omega I restored that Ryan noticed.  The goal is to provide a briar canvas that will produce more natural grain pop.  To do this I start the upgrade of this Dr. Grabow Omega by using acetone on a cotton pad to see if this will be sufficient to remove the finish.  The acetone cuts through the finish efficiently.  The cotton pad shows a purple-ish or dark burgundy/Oxblood hue of the factory finish.  As I did before, I decide to put the stummel in a soak of acetone to remove the old finish more fully.With the stummel soaking in acetone, I turn to the precast Wellington stem.  Even though the stem is new, it is in a rough state.  The seam is rough from the excess rubber during the fashioning process.   Around the P-Lip button the edge is also rough as is the rubber surface itself.To begin, a small sanding drum is mounted onto the rotary tool and with care the seam edges are smoothed off.  I’m careful because the rotary tool can easily dig a wedge into the rubber if I’m too impatient!After the sanding drum, 240 sanding paper is used to sand the entire stem.  Special attention is given to the seam lines to make sure there are no factory divots remaining in the vulcanite.  The precast factory surface is not even and has ribs and small gaps.  Sanding with 240 takes some time but helps to smooth out the surface.   After 240, the entire stem is first wet sanded with 600 grade paper then 0000 grade steel wool is applied to smooth the surface further.Next, the full regimen of micromesh pads is applied starting with wet sanding using pads 1500 to 2400.  Next, the stem is dry sanded with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 micromesh pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to the stem to help guard against oxidation. Wow!  The Greek rubber Wellington stem shined up with that pop I like. After several hours of soaking in the acetone, the stummel is fished out and I take a closer look at the results.  The briar is a salmon color.  Interesting!  An inspection of the briar surface shows the minor dents I saw previously.  The round fill on the right shank is solid – second picture. To clean the surface of minor dents and scratches, sanding sponges are used.  The sanding sponges are good for not being invasive but sanding enough to clean the surface.  I start with a coarser sponge and then transition to a medium, then light grade sanding sponge.  I avoid the nomenclature on the shank during the first two sponges. Before moving on with the application of micromesh pads, I dress up the bland rim a bit.  To do this, a small internal bevel is cut in the rim to give it some additional contour.  To me, this adds a touch of class to the Omega and that’s what ‘upgrading’ is all about. Using 240 paper, a hard surface is pressed behind the sanding paper to create the fresh lines of the bevel.  This is followed again using 600 grade paper.  I like the results.Next, the stummel is sanded with the full regimen of micromesh pads to coax out the tight, compact grain.  Starting the process by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, this is followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I stay clear of the nomenclature on the shank during the wet sanding phase.  The grain emerges through the micromesh process of sanding.  The pictures show the progression.The grain is subtle on this Omega which is different from the Omega I worked on before.  That Omega had more expressive and turbulent grain patterns.  My reading about briar grains suggests that Ryan’s Omega was fashioned from a briar block that was more toward the center of the briar bole and not the edge.  The ‘edge’ blocks tend to be more twirly, expressive, and distinct but also contain more imperfections which require patching.  Whereas, blocks cut closer toward the center of the bole, have more subtle grain patterns but fewer imperfections – the wood seems to be tighter or compressed.  The grain is there but lacks distinction at this point.At this juncture, I can’t resist uniting the stummel with the unbent Wellington stem to get a sense of the progress.  I also take a picture of the factory Grabow stem.  Not bad!  Ryan will have his pick whether he’s in the mood for the factory Dr. Grabow stem or the Greek rubber Wellington stem – as far as I can see, a perfect match. As I think about the next step in coloring the stummel, I decide to bend the Wellington replacement stem.  To do this the stem is threaded with a pipe cleaner to guard the integrity of the airway during the bend.  Using the hot air gun, the vulcanite is gently warmed at the mid-stem where the bend is to happen.  To heat gradually, I rotate the stem to balance the heating and not scorch the stem.I use a small shot glass which is about 1 1/2 inches across to serve as the bending template.  As I’m heating the stem, I gently bend the stem a bit with my hands as it become supple.  When it has heated enough and the rubber has softened, the stem is placed over the glass and bent over it to form the shape.I hold the stem in place while it is taken to the sink where cool water is run over the stem, thus solidifying the bend in place. When the stem is taken back to the work table to compare with the factory stem, it looks like a match to me the first time around!  The great thing about bending rubber stems is that if you do not get it right the first time, the process is easily repeated until the bend is on target.I have given some thought to the finish to apply to the Dr. Grabow Omega bowl.  With my last Omega I applied a mixture of 2/3s-part Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye with 1/3-part Fiebing’s Black Leather Dye with the lightening option available by wiping down the bowl with alcohol later.  With this Omega, I will do the same for the dark brown/black undercoat.  However, following this, an additional step will be tried.  A wash dye with red I believe will deepen the tones and bend the finish toward a reddish palette and not toward the purplish/burgundy of the original Omega motif.  I believe this will give the pipe more eye-catching pop in the end – or this is my hope!  Applying dyes often feels like a roll of the dice – different woods absorb dyes differently and one never knows for sure what the exact results will be!  My goal is to bring out the grain distinctiveness with the undercoat and then to get in the ballpark of the right color template with the overcoat washing.  To begin, after assembling all the components on the worktable, Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye and Fiebing’s Black Leather Dye are mixed at a 2 to 1 ratio to use as the undercoat. After wiping the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol, the stummel is heated with the hot gun.  This heating expands the briar and makes the wood grain more receptive to the dye.When the stummel is heated sufficiently, the aniline dye mixture is applied to the stummel in sections with a folded pipe cleaner and then ‘flamed’ using a lighted candle.  The alcohol in the aniline dye combusts setting the dye pigment in the briar grain.  This flaming process continues as dye is applied in sections until the entire stummel is covered.The stummel is then put aside to rest for several hours.  This helps the dye to ‘settle’ and be absorbed into the wood. After several hours, the time to ‘unwrap’ the stummel has arrived – one of my favorite parts of a restoration when new dye has been applied to a stummel.  I call this phase unwrapping because the fired dye is crusted around the stummel like a shell.  The shell is unwrapped using more abrasive Tripoli compound and a felt buffing wheel mounted onto the rotary tool.  The speed of the rotary tool is set to about 25 to 30% full power – slower than usual guarding against too much heat buildup from friction generated by the more abrasive combination of compound and felt wheel.  This combination is like a bulldozer!As the crusted dye is removed, I purge the felt wheel repeatedly with the edge of the metal rotary tool wrench.  This keeps the felt wheel softer and cleaner.  As hoped, as the Tripoli compound is applied to the crusted surface, an eye-catching landscape of grain is now more distinctive.  The pictures below show the unwrapping in process.  I love to watch this unveiling! The dye process darkens and accents the grain patterns. After the crusted dye is removed, the bowl is gently wiped with a cotton pad and alcohol.  This is done not to lighten the stummel but to blend the dye.  Little dye is removed on the cotton pad which seems to indicate that the undercoat of dye is well established.The next step, to deepen the hue and bend it more to a rich red tone, the stummel is dye washed with red dye.  The stummel is again heated, but this time the dye is washed on with a pipe cleaner without firing because the alcohol content in the red dye is not as great.  After the red dye is applied thoroughly, the lesser abrasive, Blue Diamond compound is applied to the stummel with a cotton cloth buffing wheel on the rotary tool set at about 40% full power. This removes the excess dye.  Not pictured is that I wiped the stummel a number time with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to blend the red dye with the dark brown/black under coat.  Afterwards, Blue Diamond was again applied until the hue looked good.  Also not shown is that the Wellington stem was also polished with Blue Diamond compound with a cotton cloth buffing wheel.To refresh the Omega’s nickel shank cap, another cotton cloth buffing wheel dedicated to applying compound on metal is mounted on the rotary tool.  Blue Diamond is applied, and the bling factor of the shank cap went up a few notches! The final step is to apply carnauba wax to the entire pipe.  After mounting another cotton cloth buffing wheel, with the speed set at about 40% full power, the wax is applied to the stummel and Wellington stem – not to the nickel shank cap.  After application of the wax, the Omega is given a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine and to remove any excess wax that may have collected on the surface.Wow, what a change!  And then the next thought, ‘Wow, maybe too much change!’  At this point I was ready to send the write up to Steve to publish on rebornpipes, but my concern continued to grow, and that small voice was gnawing inside – the finish may have gone a little too far from the original Dr. Grabow Omega motif which was bent more to the burgundy pallet than what I did, going more toward the red.  I decided to send a pre-published PDF of the write up with final presentation pictures to receive his assessment.  I expressed to Ryan that I could take the Omega back to the worktable and bend the hue back to more of a burgundy palette – that working with dyes is like a dance.  After sending that email and PDF, I waited to find out if the Dr. Grabow Omega was finished or whether I was headed back to the worktable.  Ryan’s response did not take long:

Hi Dal, I think we can definitely call it finished (and then some)! I couldn’t stop smiling as I read through your write-up because every time I thought the pipe must be nearly finalized (I was already amazed at how much better it looked after unwrapping the initial coat of dye), there would be another step in the process that made it look even better. I’m genuinely awestruck at how well it turned out. That a lowly drugstore pipe can be transformed to such a degree is a testament to the tremendous skill and care you put into your work. As far as the color is concerned, I think you chose the ideal shade: not too dark, not too light, and a perfect showcase for the more subtle grain patterns of this pipe. I wouldn’t change it one bit. The stem came out looking like a million bucks, as well, which is quite a feat considering how (literally) rough around the edges it was at the beginning. Just extraordinary work all around. I can’t thank you enough!…. Once again, thanks very much for doing such a wonderful job and taking the trouble to document each individual step. I really enjoyed reading about the restoration process and I can’t wait to see the pipe in person!

Best regards,

Ryan

The upgrade of Ryan’s Dr. Grabow Omega ‘drugstore pipe’ is an amazing transformation and a grain popping display.  The transition from the finish that clouded the grain has been replaced with a sharp, distinctive cornucopia of grain patterns.  The Wellington stem is a perfect replacement for the Dr. Grabow factory stem.  This Omega upgrade, as with all my restorations, benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks, Ryan!  Thank you for joining me!

Restemming and Restoring a Stone Age K11 609 Italian Freehand Bowl


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I chose to work on was a bowl sans stem that is interestingly rusticated and reads Stone Age K11 [over] shape number 609 followed by Italy on a smooth panel on the underside of the shank. The shape number reminded me of a Savinelli number but I was not certain. It was purchased in November, 2018 from a fellow in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA. It has been sitting in my box of bowls since that time. Jeff cleaned it up and mailed it to me. It is another pipe that I have been postponing restemming for a while. This morning while going through my collection of stem I found one that fit the pipe. At least it works for me! When I found the stem I pulled the bowl out of the box and set aside to be the next pipe to work on. It has a very unique rustication that is quite different – both rugged and spun that reminds me of a honey swizzle stick. The flared shank and rim top both look like rusticated plateau – faux or real, I am unsure. Overall it is a pretty pipe. The bowl had thick cake in the bowl and the rim top had a coat of lava on the inner edge of the bowl and in the grooves of the rim top. The finish had a lot of dust and debris in the valleys of the rustication. I have no idea who made it but it is definitely interesting. Jeff took some photos of the bowl before he cleaned it up. The next two close up photos show the condition of the bowl and rim top. You can see the thick lava coat on the inner edge of the bowl and in the rustication of the rim top. Jeff took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It read as noted above and is  clear and readable.I decided to see if could confirm my thinking that the pipe was connected with Savinelli. I turned to Pipephil’s site and found nothing connecting the Stone Age K11 609 to the brand. However I was not convinced as I am sure the shape number 609 is a Savinelli number.

I turned to Pipedia (https://pipedia.org/images/4/41/Sav_Shape_Chart_2017.jpg) and found a shape chart and indeed for the 609 listed as a shape for a bent billiard. I am pretty sure that with a bit of imagination this freehand that I am working on could possibly be construed as a Freehand in a Bent Billiard shape. But I am uncertain. I have included the chart below.I found pipes with a similar rustication on several sites on the internet. Worthpoint, an online auction site (https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/stone-age-italy-k11-603-tobacco-428555927) listed a 603 with the same rustication style and stamping on the underside of the shank. Smokingpipes.com also listed a Stone Age K11 613 Volcano sitter with the same rustication and stamping on the shank that they had sold in the past (possibly as early as 2010 from the photo (https://www.smokingpipes.com/pipes/estate/italy/moreinfo.cfm?product_id=73396).

With those photos and the shape numbers that at least appear to be made by Savinelli it leaves me wondering. The shapes really do not match the shape chart above but the numbers are present. Ah well another mystery!

I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had carried out his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. He had reamed it with a PipNet reamer to remove the cake and cleaned the reaming up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the externals with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed the bowl off with running water. The pipe looked very clean when I received it. I went through my can of stems and found turned freehand style vulcanite stem that I thought would work well with the bowl and shank. I took a photo of the combination below. The stem fit the mortise perfectly though the bend to much to work well with the pipe. There were tooth marks in surface of the top and underside of the stem at the button that would need to be dealt with in the restoration. I put the stem in the shank and took some photos of the pipe. The rim top and shank end cleaned up really well as can be seen in the close up photos below. There appeared to be some debris in the grooves of the plateau top of the rim that would need to be dealt with but without the lava coat it was impressively cleaned. The stem looked like it belonged. I already noted the tooth marks and chatter on both sides near the button.I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It really is clear and readable. I decided to start my work on restoring the pipe by addressing the debris and darkening on the rim top. I used a brass bristle brush and scrubbed the surface of the rim top and shank end working on removing debris and darkening from the grooves of the plateau and rustication. It looked much better than when I started.I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar and the the grooves around the bowl and shank with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 15 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm.   Now it was time to straighten the bend I the stem to match the flow of the pipe. Instead of using my heat gun I painted the stem surface with the flame of a Bic lighter until the vulcanite became flexible. I straightened it out to the angles I wanted for the pipe. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process. I removed the stem from the bowl and set the bowl aside. I turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the tooth marks on both sides of the stem with the flame of a lighter to lift them as much as possible. They all lifted but one on the topside. I filled in the remaining tooth mark with clear super glue and set it aside to cure. Once cured, I blended the repairs into the surface of the vulcanite with 220 grit sandpaper. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. The stem was looking much better. I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This restemmed, rusticated Stone Age K11 609 Italian Freehand is a beautiful looking pipe that combines a rusticated finish with a unique shaped. I may never know for sure if Savinelli made it but I think so! The brown stains on the bowl work well to highlight the finish. The polished turned fancy black vulcanite stem adds to the mix. I put the finished stem on the bowl and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel being careful to not buff the stamping. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that like the other pipes I am working that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 54grams/1.90oz. It will soon be added to the Italian Pipe Makers section on the rebornpipes store. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next generation.

Restemming and Restoring a Sasieni Windsor London Made Oom Paul 80


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I chose to work on was a Sasieni Windsor Sandblast |Bowl sans stem that was purchased from a shop in Oregon when Irene and I visited my brother on the coast there. It has been sitting in my box of bowls since that time. Jeff cleaned it up and mailed it to me. I have been postponing restemming any of the pipes for a while now but after restemming that little gourd calabash a couple of days ago I was ready to do a few more. I pulled this one out of the box and set aside to be the next pipe to work on. It has a very deep sandblast that is quite stunning on the full bent pipe. Overall it is a pretty pipe. The bowl had thick cake in the bowl and there was a coat of lava in the grooves of the rim top. The finish had a lot of dust and debris in the valleys of the blast. The stamping on the smooth panel on the underside of the shank was clear and readable. It was stamped Sasieni [over] Windsor [over] London Made. To the right of that it was stamped with the shape number 80. To the left of the Sasieni stamp on the heel of the bowl it is stamped Made in England in a rugby ball shaped stamp. Jeff took some photos of the bowl before he cleaned it up. The next three close up photos show the condition of the bowl and rim top. You can see the lava coat on the inner edge of the bowl and the debris in the rustication of the rim top. Jeff took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It read as noted above and is  faint and readable.I turned to Pipephil’s site to get a read on the Sasieni Windsor line to see if I could find out more about the stamping (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-sasieni2.html). The pipe was in the section on the site as a Sasieni seconds and sub-brands. The pipe in the second photo had very similar stamping to the bowl I was working on. I did a screen capture of the section on Pipephil. I have included it below.  There were also photos that were included on Pipephil of what the sandblast looked like on the Sasieni Windsor originally.The third photo of the underside of the shank shows a similar stamping to the pipe I am working on. The pipe originally had a saddle vulcanite stem. The stem was long gone when Jeff and I picked it up so I had some decisions to make about the stem I would use to restem it.I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had carried out his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. He had reamed it with a PipNet reamer to remove the cake and cleaned the reaming up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the externals with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed the bowl off with running water. The pipe looked very clean when I received it. The rim top cleaned up really well as can be seen in the close up photos below. I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It really is faint but readable. I went through my can of stems and found turned freehand style vulcanite stem that would work well with the bowl and shank. The bend in it was a little too high and would need to be heated and bent for the Oom Paul shape. There were tooth marks in surface of the top and underside of the stem at the button that would need to be dealt with in the restoration.   I took a photo of the stem and bowl together to give a sense of the look of the pipe and the proportion of the stem. I put the stem in place on the shank and took photos of combination of the bowl and stem. It is going to look very good once it is cleaned up. I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 15 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm.   I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I put a pipe cleaner in the stem and then heated the stem with my heat gun until the vulcanite was supple. I bent it to the angle that matched the bowl. I filled in the tooth marks and rebuilt the button top with black super glue and set it aside to cure. Once it had cured I used files to reshape the edge of the button and flatten the repairs on the stem surface. I blended the repairs into the surface of the vulcanite with 220 grit sandpaper. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. The stem was looking much better. I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This restemmed, sandblasted Sasieni Windsor 80 Oom Paul is a beautiful looking pipe. The brown stains on the bowl work well to highlight the finish. The polished black vulcanite saddle stem adds to the mix. I put the finished stem on the bowl and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel being careful to not buff the stamping. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Sasieni Windsor 80 is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished Oom Paul a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 46grams/1.62oz. It will soon be added to the British Pipe Makers section on the rebornpipes store. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next generation.

 

Restemming and Restoring a Monte Verde Hand Made Freehand Bowl


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I chose to work on was a Monte Verde bowl sans stem that was purchased from an online auction on 03/06/18 from Nampa, Idaho, USA. It has been sitting in my box of bowls since that time. Jeff cleaned it up and mailed it to me. I have been postponing restemming any of the pipes for a while now but after restemming that little gourd calabash a couple of days ago I was ready to do a few more. I pulled this one out of the box first and set aside to be the next pipe to work on. It has a very craggy rustication that is quite stunning and a square flared shank. Overall it is a pretty pipe. The bowl had thick cake in the bowl and the rim top had a coat of lava on the inner edge of the bowl and in the grooves of the rim top. The finish had a lot of dust and debris in the valleys of the rustication. The stamping on the smooth panel on the underside of the shank was clear and readable. It was stamped Monte Verdi [over] Made in Denmark [over] By Hand [over] Golden Tan in script. I knew that the Monte Verdi line was made by Preben Holm of Ben Wade and Preben Holm Freehand fame. Jeff took some photos of the bowl before he cleaned it up. The next two close up photos show the condition of the bowl and rim top. You can see the lava coat on the inner edge of the bowl and the debris in the rustication of the rim top. Jeff took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It read as noted above and is  clear and readable.I decided to confirm my thinking that the pipe was connected with Preben Holm/Ben Wade. I turned to Pipephil’s site to get a read on the brand (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-m6.html). Sure enough the Monte Verdi line was made by Preben Holm. The pipe in the photo had a very similar rustication to the Monte Verdi bowl I was working on. I did a screen capture of the section on Pipephil. I have included it below.  There were also photos that were included on Pipephil of what this particular pipe looked like when it had left Denmark. The rustication around the bowl and shank is very similar. The pipe I have does not have a shank extension but otherwise the finish is much the same.The pipe originally had a fancy turned vulcanite stem. The stem was long gone when Jeff picked it up so I had some decisions to make about the stem I would use to restem it.I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had carried out his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. He had reamed it with a PipNet reamer to remove the cake and cleaned the reaming up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the externals with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed the bowl off with running water. The pipe looked very clean when I received it. The rim top and shank end cleaned up really well as can be seen in the close up photos below.I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It really is clear and readable.I went through my can of stems and found turned freehand style vulcanite stem that would work well with the bowl and shank. The bend in it was perfect. There were tooth marks in surface of the top and underside of the stem at the button that would need to be dealt with in the restoration. I took a photo of the stem and bowl together to give a sense of the look of the pipe and the proportion of the stem. I shortened the length of the tenon with my Dremel and sanding drum and smoothed out the tenon with 220 grit sandpaper and fit the stem in the shank and took pictures of the pipe and stem. I removed the stem and rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 15 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm.   I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I “painted” the tooth marks on both sides of the stem with the flame of a lighter to lift them as much as possible. I filled in the tooth marks that remaining with clear super glue and set it aside to cure. Once it had cured I used a flat file to reshape the edge of the button and flatten the repairs on the stem surface. I blended the repairs into the surface of the vulcanite with 220 grit sandpaper. I started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. The stem was looking much better. I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. In speaking with Kenneth yesterday I remembered that I had used a product in the past called Meguiar’s Scratch X2.0 to polish the surface of the stem after all of the previous polishing I had done. I took photos of the stem after polishing with the compound and did give a rich shine.   This restemmed, rusticated Preben Holm Hand Made Monte Verdi Golden Tan Freehand is a beautiful looking pipe that combines a rusticated finish with a unique shaped. The brown stains on the bowl work well to highlight the finish. The polished turned fancy black vulcanite stem adds to the mix. I put the finished stem on the bowl and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel being careful to not buff the stamping. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that like the other pipes I am working that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 7 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 63grams/2.22oz. It will soon be added to the Danish Pipe Makers section on the rebornpipes store. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next generation.

Restemming and Restoring a Gepetto 303 Rusticated Bowl


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I chose to work on came to us from an antique shop in Houston, Texas, USA that Jeff visited in 2018. It has been sitting in my box of bowls since that time. Jeff cleaned it up and mailed it to me. I have been postponing restemming any of the pipes for a while now but after restemming that little gourd calabash a couple of days ago I was ready to do a few more. I pulled this one out of the box first and set aside to be the next pipe to work on. It has a very craggy rustication that is quite stunning and it has a smooth rim cap and ring  that make me call it a Rhodesian. It also has a smooth band on the shank end. Overall it is a pretty pipe. The bowl had been reamed before Jeff purchased it and was pretty clean. The rim top had a coat of lava that covered the majority of the cap. The finish had a lot of dust and debris in the valleys of the rustication. The stamping on the smooth panel on the underside of the shank was clear and readable. It had a J in circle [over] the shape number 303. That is followed by Gepetto [arched over] Italy [over] Hand Made. The J stamp made me immediately think of a connection to Ser Jacopo but I would look into that later in the blog. The next two close up photos show the condition of the bowl and rim top. You can see the thick lava coat on the top and you can see the reamed bowl sides on the left rear. It would need to be cleaned up but it was surprisingly clean for the condition of the rim top. Jeff took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It read as noted above and is clear and readable.I decided to confirm my thinking that the pipe was connected with Ser Jacopo. I turned to Pipephil’s site to get a read on the brand (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-g2.html). Sure enough the Gepetto line is called a second of Ser Jacopo. I did a screen capture of the section on Pipephil on both the Gepetto line and the informative side bar from the Ser Jacopo section that also states that the line is a second. I have included them below.  There were also photos that were included on Pipephil of what this particular pipe looked like when it had left Italy. The rustication around the bowl and shank is very similar though the stain on this one is darker and the grain on the smooth rim cap much more prominent. The pipe originally had an acrylic saddle stem with a silver inlaid Pinnochio on the top of the stem. The stem was long gone when Jeff picked it up so I had some decisions to make about the stem I would use to restem it. I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had carried out his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. He had reamed it with a PipNet reamer to remove the cake and cleaned the reaming up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the externals with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed the bowl off with running water. The pipe looked very clean when I received it. The rim top looked better but still needed a lot of work. I went through my can of stems and found an acrylic one that had the right colour combination of browns and golds to work with the finish on the bowl. It was a little too bent but that would not be an issue. There were also tooth marks in the top and underside of the stem at the button that would need to be dealt with in the restoration. I fit the stem in the shank and took a picture of the pipe. The stem is a little larger in diameter than the shank. I will need to sand it down to match the shank. I will also need to straighten the stem. I took a close up photo of the rim top. You can see the cleanness of the bowl and rim. There is darkening around inner edge of the rim and crown top. You can also see the stem is a little larger in diameter than the shank in the photos below. You can also see the tooth marks in the second and third photos below.I straightened the stem over my heat gun. I put a pipe cleaner in the shank and heated it until the stem was flexible and I was able to straighten it to match the bend in the stem. I took photos of the pipe and stem after the straightening.I set the stem aside and worked on the rim edges and top with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I was able to remove the damage to the rim edges and top.I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads and wiped it down with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. The crown took on a rich shine. I stained the rim top with a Maple and Cherry stain pen to match the finish on the smooth portions on the bowl.With the repair completed I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 15 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm.   In the process of rubbing the bowl down with Before & After Balm I noticed a hairline crack in the underside of shank that needed to be addressed. I don’t know if it was present or if it cracked when I fitted the new stem. Either way it needed to be repaired. I sanded the smooth area on the shank end down with 220 grit sandpaper in  preparation for the band I wanted to put on it. I found a nice brass band that was grooved to look like a double band. I heated the band and pressed it in place. The band looked very good on the shank. I filled in the tooth marks on the stem with clear super glue and set it aside to cure. Once it had cured I sanded it down with 220 grit sandpaper. I also sanded the diameter of the stem to match the diameter of the shank. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I polished the acrylic stem with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.   This restemmed, rusticated Gepetto 303 Rhodesian is a beautiful looking pipe that combines a smooth rim cap and rusticated bowl and shank. The brown stains on the bowl work well to highlight the grain. The polished variegated brown/gold half saddle acrylic stem adds to the mix. I put the finished stem on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel being careful to not buff the stamping. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The rusticated pipe is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that like the other pipes I am working that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 2 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 57grams/2.05oz. It will soon be added to the Italian Pipe Makers section on the rebornpipes store. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next generation.

 

 

Restemming a Dunhill Pipe – A Patent Era 1936 Dunhill Bruyere 35 Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

This Dunhill Billiard was one of five other Billiards that came to us in the same lot as the 1922 Dunhill Bruyere Reading Pipe, a cracked shank 1962 Dunhill Shell Briar Pot and the 1905 BBB Calabash Reading Pipe and 1911 BBB Glokar Poker. It was a great looking Bruyere Billiard that had a Yello-Bole stem instead of the original Dunhill stem. The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank with the letter A next to the bowl and the was followed by DUNHILL [over] LONDON. On the right side of the shank it was stamped MADE IN ENGLAND [over] PAT. NO 41757416 that is followed by the shape number 35.

It was another filthy pipe with a thick cake in the bowl and a heavy lava overflow on the rim top. It looked like it had a shiny coat of varnish or shellac on the bowl that would need to be removed so I could work on the rim top and nicks in the bowl sides. The stem would need to be replaced so Jeff and I would look over what he had there in terms of stems we had set aside. Perhaps there would be one in the lot that would work. Jeff removed the Yello-Bole stem from the shank and took photos of the bowl before he did his clean up work.  He took photos of the bowl and rim to give a picture of the thickness of the cake and lava on the rim top. This must have been a favourite pipe to have gone through a Dunhill stem and then pressing a Yello-Bole stem into service. I would need to find a Dunhill stem for it but it had promise even under the thick cake in the bowl.  Jeff took photos of the stamping on the sides of the shank but they are quite blurry because of the refection of the shiny varnish/shellac coat. I am including them anyway here as the give a sense of where the stamp was on the shank sides.I turned to Pipedia’s section on Dunhill Root Briar Pipes to get a bit of background on the Dunhill finishes (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill#Root_Briar). I quote:

Bruyere

The original finish produced (usually made using Calabrian briar), and a big part of developing and marketing the brand. It was the only finish from 1910 until 1917. A dark reddish-brown stain. Before the 1950s, there were three possible finishes for Dunhill pipes. The Bruyere was a smooth finish with a deep red stain, obtained through two coats, a brown understain followed by a deep red.

There was a link on the above site to a section specifically written regarding the Bruyere finish (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill_Bruyere). I turned there and have included the information from that short article below.

Initially, made from over century-old briar burls, classified by a “B” (denoted highest quality pipe); “DR” (denoted straight-grained) and an “A” (denoted first quality), until early 1915. After that, they became a high-end subset to the Dunhill ‘Bruyere’. The DR and B pipes, a limited production, they should be distinguished as hand-cut in London from burls as opposed to the Bruyere line which was generally finished from French turned bowls until 1917, when the Calabrian briar started to be used, but not completely. Only in 1920 Dunhill took the final step in its pipe making operation and began sourcing and cutting all of its own bowls, proudly announcing thereafter that “no French briar was employed”.

Bruyere pipes were usually made using Calabrian briar, a very dense and hardy briar that has a modest grain but does very well with the deep red stain.

“Before the 1950s, there were three possible finishes for Dunhill pipes. The Bruyere was a smooth finish with a deep red stain, obtained through two coats, a brown understain followed by a deep red. The Shell finish was the original sandblast with a near-black stain (though the degree to which it is truly black has varied over the years). Lastly, the Root finish was smooth also but with a light brown finish. Early Dunhill used different briars with different stains, resulting in more distinct and identifiable creations… Over the years, to these traditional styles were added four new finishes: Cumberland, Dress, Chestnut and Amber Root, plus some now-defunct finishes, such as County, Russet and Red Bark.”

There was also a link to a catalogue page that gave examples and dates that the various finishes were introduced (https://pipedia.org/wiki/File:Dunnypipescatalog-1.png).I turned to Pipephil’s dating guide to show how I arrived at the date of manufacture for this pipe (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/cledat-en1.html). I am including two charts that are provided there for the dating a pipe. I have drawn a red box around the pertinent section in each chart. Since the pipe I am working on has a suffix 16 that is raised superscript it points to 1920+ 16 for a date of 1936 on the charts below. I now knew that I was working on a Bruyere that came out in 1936 because of the date stamp 16. The shape of the pipe was one of many Billiards that Dunhill put out and the #35 was a normal billiard shape with a taper stem. That helped me figure out the kind of stem I would need to restem the pipe.

I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had carried out his usual thorough cleanup of the pipe. He had reamed it with a PipNet reamer to remove the cake and cleaned the reaming up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the externals with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed the bowl off with running water. He had included a stem that we thought could work with the pipe and had soaked it in Before & After Deoxidizer and once it had soaked rinsed it off with warm water to remove the residual solution. He dried it off and scrubbed it down with Soft Scrub All-Purpose cleaner to remove any oxidation that was still on the stem. The biggest issue with the stem was the large chunk of vulcanite missing on the button on the underside but I thought we could make it work. The stem was from the wrong era and the button was the wrong shape but it would work until the proper stem was located. The pipe looked very clean when I received it. I took a photo of the bowl and the stem I was planning on using. I sanded the tenon to slightly reduce the diameter and leave a snug fit in the shank. It did not take too much to get a nice fit. Note that the diameter of the stem is slightly larger than the shank and it is flattened on the bottom. Since it is larger the flatten portion will not be an issue and with a little work the stem will be a perfect fit.  The fourth photo of the underside of the stem shows the damage to the button that will need to be repaired. I took a photo of the rim top to show the condition. You can see the darkening, scratches and damage on the rim top. It is roughened and slightly out of round. The varnish/shellac coat is peeling on the top. The stem came out looking quite good. There are tooth marks and chatter on the top side near the button and a large chunk of the button missing on the underside. 

I took photos of the stamping on both sides of the shank to try to capture it better than the photos above. It is better and is readable it reads as noted above. Also not the variation in the diameter of the stem that will need to be addressed.It was time to work on the stem. I decided to tackle the repair to the missing part of the button on the underside of the stem first. I would also need to work on the diameter of the stem at the shank and the shape of the stem to match the year it was made. There was a lot of work to do on the stem.

I got the repair station set up. I use a piece of cardboard with two strips of packing tape to mix the putty. I used Loctite 380 rubberized Black CA glue and three capsules of charcoal powder. I made a cardboard wedge covered in packing tape to fit in the slot and keep me from filling the slot in with the mixture.  I put a pool of the glue on the middle of the cardboard base so I could mix the charcoal powder into it.I mixed the powder and the glue together with a dental spatula. I stirred it until I got a thick putty like paste. I used the spatula to place the mixture on the top of the stem and fill in the missing chunk. I always overfill the area as I can easily remove the excess with the Dremel and files. I sprayed the repair with accelerator to harden the surface so I could remove the cardboard wedge. I took out the wedge and took a photo of the stem at this point in the process.I let the repair cure overnight and in the morning I used a rasp and file to begin to shape the stem surface and flatten the repair. It was a good solid repair and with a lot of shaping and sanding it would work well.I continued to shape the stem surface with 220 grit sandpaper to the button and stem surface smooth. I also worked on the diameter of the stem and removed the flattened bottom. Lots more work to do but it is getting there.I knew that the 1936 stem would not have had the flared fishtail look but probably would have been more of a straight taper. I did a search on Google for a 1936 Dunhill Bruyere in a shape 35 to see if I could find one that would provide a pattern for the shaping of this replacement stem. I found one (https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/1936-dunhill-bruyere-grade-billiard-490781280). I copied several of the photos to get a pattern to work with.

You can see from the photos to the left that the stem was significantly different in shape than the fishtail stem that I was working with. The taper on the sides from the shank to the button was far more gentle and almost straight. The taper on the top and bottom the stem is very similar to what I have. The biggest difference was in the last half inch of the stem and button. I would need to remove the horns or fish tail edges from the button and smooth out the transition on the button end so that it is not flared.

It took some work but I used the Dremel to roughly shape the stem like the sides of the stem and the button edges. I took off a lot of vulcanite and when I was done it was very close. I think the rest of the work would be done with sandpaper.I continued shaping it with 220 grit sandpaper. It is looking very good at this point. I still have work to do on the repair to take care of air bubbles but I am happy with how it is coming out so far.I filled in the air bubbles on the stem and button surfaces with black super glue and set the stem aside for the repairs to cure.I turned my attention to the bowl. I decided to start the restoration on it by working on the damage on the inner edge of the bowl. It had darkening and some damage to the edge. There were burn and reaming damage marks on the edge. I worked it over with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to give the edge a light bevel and remove and minimize the damage on the edge. When I finished with it, the bowl and the rim top looked much better.I wiped down the bowl with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the shellac/varnish coat. It removed a lot of the shiny coat but the polishing with micromesh will remove the rest of it. I polished the rim top and bowl with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. The briar began to take on a shine.    I paused the sanding with the micromesh to stain the rim top with a Mahogany Stain pen to match the colour around the bowl. Afterwards I picked up the micromesh pads 3200-12000 and completed the cycle to polish the bowl. I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 15 minutes while I worked on the stem. After the time passed I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar really comes alive with the balm. I was excited to be finishing this pipe. I still had work to do but thought I would take a look at the stem and pipe together. I put the stem in place and tried I tried to blow through it and only got read in the face. I tried to put a pipe cleaner through the button and it went into the area of the repair and stopped. I tried to push a wire through the blockage and it would not budge. My stem repair had sealed off the airway!!!!. I usually do a stem repair with a folded greased pipe cleaner in the airway. This time I tried the cardboard wedge that both Dal and Paresh have used many times with no issues, thinking this stem would be a great candidate for that. I made a wedge and fit it in place but it must have had a small opening at the end that allowed the repair material to go past it. The airway was sealed tight and hard as a rock! I set the stem aside and went to the Post Office to mail a package. While I waited for the clerk I had an idea. When I got home I tried it. I put the smallest drill bit I had in the chuck of my cordless drill and carefully drilled it through. I up the bit to the second smallest one and the airway was clear! Whew… but even more amazing is that with all the drilling and fussing at the button lip the repair did not chip or loosen. The repair was solid. That at least was very good news in the midst of this mess.I worked on the stem some more fine tuning the fit against the shank and the shape of the button and stem to get as close as possible to the pictures that I found and included above. I sanded and shaped and sanded and shaped… did I say sanded and shaped?? It seemed almost endless. I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.  This Dunhill A Bruyere 35 Patent Billiard from 1936 is a beautiful looking piece of briar that has a shape that follows grain. It is a great looking pipe that came out looking even better after the cleanup and restemming. The Bruyere is an early finish that Dunhill specialized in making. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition. The red and brown stain on the bowl works well to highlight the grain. The polished black vulcanite taper stem that I repurposed to replace the Yello-Bole stem adds to the mix. It is not the 1936 stem but I reshaped it to a close approximation. It will work until I find the proper era stem. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel being careful to not buff the stamping. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine.

The finished Bruyere 35 Billiard is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that like the other pipes I am working that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 5/8 of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 31grams/1.06oz. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next generation.

 

Restemming a Small Porcelain Bowled Gourd Calabash


Blog by Steve Laug

In my box of bowls, collected over the years I had this small gourd calabash pipe with a ceramic cup insert. Somewhere along its journey someone had broken the tenon off in the shank. I was looking at it this morning and was drawn to it. There was something about the little calabash that was attractive. The golden shank extension and the white porcelain cup looked good. I imagined what it would look like with a black stem and figure it would be a good one to fiddle with while I waited for calls that I was expecting. To start off the work I would need to remove the broken tenon in the shank. There are multiple ways to do that but first I tried to pull it with a screw twisted into the airway but it would not budge. I removed the porcelain bowl from the gourd and set it aside to work on later. I did not drop it by accident. I used my cordless drill and a bit the same size as the mortise and slowly drill the broken tenon out of the mortise. It did not take long before it dropped out of the mortise in pieces as shown in the photos below. I went through my can of stems and found one that I thought looked good with golden coloured shank extension and gourd. It is a fancy stem that is paneled once passed the saddle.The tenon was a little large for the mortise so I used a Dremel and sanding drum to start the process of taking down. I noticed that the tenon was not centered on the stem so I used a rasp to bring it back to center and remove the excess vulcanite. I sanded it smooth with a folded piece of 220 sandpaper and fit it on the shank. I took photos of the look of the stem at this point. I would need to give it a slight bend before it was finished, but I liked the look of it.I set the gourd and stem aside for awhile and turned to work on the porcelain bowl. It was a dirty mess with lava on the rim top and a thick cake in the bowl. I removed the lava on the rim top by dry sanding it with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad. I was able to remove all of the build up and get it back to the porcelain finish underneath.I scraped out the cake in the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and took it back to bare walls. The bowl and airway at the bottom were in excellent condition. I scrubbed the internal of the bowl and the exterior of the cup and rim top with a tooth brush and some dish soap to remove the grime that had build up and leave the bowl clean and fresh smelling.I cleaned up the inner edge of the bowl with a folded piece of worn 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the nicks in the edge. When I finished it looked better.I polished the porcelain cup top with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the cup top down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the dust and debris. The cup really took on a shine.The gourd was quite clean inside. I wiped it out with a paper towel to remove the debris. I used some Vaseline petroleum jelly renew the cork gasket around the inside of the gourd neck. I worked it in with my fingertips and let it sit until the dry cork had absorbed the jelly and was more elastic.I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the gourd with my finger tips to enliven, clean and protect the surface. I let it sit on the gourd for 15 minutes then buffed it off with a soft cloth. The gourd really came alive with the product. I put the porcelain cup back on the gourd bowl and took pictures of the pipe at this point in the restoration and restemming. I set the gourd and cup aside and turned my attention to the stem. I put a slight bend in the stem using my heat gun. The photo below shows the bend. The angle of the bend makes the pipe level in the mouth.I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem.  This Delicate Looking Small Porcelain Bowled Gourd Calabash is a great looking older pipe. I have no idea of the age of the pipe but I have had it in my box of bowl for probably15-18 years and I have no memory of where I picked it up or when. It is a great looking pipe that came out looking even better with the newly fit stem. The finish on the pipe is in excellent condition. The white of the porcelain cup works well with the orange/brown of the gourd, the golden shank extension and the polished black vulcanite fancy stem adds to the mix. With the grime gone from the finish and the bowl it was a beauty and is eye-catching. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel being careful to not drop or damage the bowl or gourd. I gave the gourd and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Porcelain Bowled Gourd Calabash is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. I can only tell you that like the other pipes I am working that it is much prettier in person than the photos capture. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 ½ inches, Height: 3 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 42grams/1.48oz. It will soon be added to the Ceramic and Meerschaum Pipes section on the rebornpipes store. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. Remember we are not pipe owners; we are pipemen and women who hold our pipes in trust until they pass on into the trust of the next generation.