Tag Archives: rusticated pipes

A Review – A Bill Boyle Small Bent Rustic Apple

I received my third Bill Boyle Pipe in the post from Bill several weeks ago. I have two other pipes that he made for me during the past several years and I have watched the progress in Bill’s craftsmanship and work in these pipes and through watching the variety of pipes that appear on his website and through the reviews others have made. Bill and I have talked about pipes since the days that he started making modified cob pipes. He has come a long way through the years and this new pipe reflects a huge step up in his work in my opinion. The previous two pipes are amazing smoking machines but his stem work was not perfected and was a bit too thick to my liking (See the comparative pictures below). The taper of the stems on the early ones was more abrupt while this one is very smooth and flowing. His internal mechanics have always been spot on but it was the finish work on the stem that needed to be refined. This new pipe is a step up in every way. It is a beauty to be sure. The length of the pipe is 5 inches and the bowl height is 1 5/8 inches. The chamber diameter is 3/4 inches and depth is 1 3/8 inches. It weighs 40 grams or 1.4 ounces. It is carved from Italian block according to Bill’s website and sports a hand cut Cumberland stem. The pipe is a small apple shape with a ¼ bent stem that fits well in the hand.The stamping reversed B and B and is one of the last of this stamping that will be used as Bill has stepped up his production and has a new stamp for Bill Boyle Pipes.
Bill Boyle 1
The finish on the outside of the pipe is rusticated in a finish that is quite different from the other two rusticated pipes I have purchased from Bill. It is not a heavy deep rustication on this pipe but more of a rustication pattern that has the appearance of strands of a rope. There is a still a very tactile feel to the rustication on the bowl and shank but it does not really have the look of randomness that was in his more heavy rustication. It is a nice variation and I think that it adds to the overall appearance.
Bill Boyle 5On the rim of the pipe Bill rusticated it over the curve and then almost countersunk the bowl. The rim thus forms two levels and a bit of step down from the rusticated edge to the smooth edge that is below and then drops into the bowl. The rustication where the shank and bowl meet is a bit heavier than what is on the rest of the bowl and a bit rougher but does not detract from the other rustication. It is merely a variation that makes me wonder if there is not a flaw or sandpit in this area of the pipe (indeed Bill confirmed this is so in a later email). The staining on the briar appears to be a blend of darker/medium brown/black with an oxblood over stain that is a nice contrast. In the light it appears to have a dark oxblood tinge that comes out well in contrast to the browns in the under stain. It really goes well with the Cumberland stem. Bill has matched the colour of the Cumberland stem with his choice and combination of stains. Great work on the finish Bill.
Bill Boyle 3
The stem itself is the best of the three stems my BB pipes. His stem work has really developed and this is by far the most well executed of the three. It is a nicely cut saddle stem. The saddle is well cut and the finish on the 90 degree angles of the saddle is smooth and polished. There are no machine or file marks. He has done a great job shaping this part of the stem. The blade of the stem is thin and has a good even tapered flow from the saddle to the button. It is matched in terms of angles on the top and the bottom and on the left and right side of the stem. The design along with the slight bend makes it fit very comfortably in the mouth. It also rests well enough that it can be clenched quite easily. The tenon is cut from the stem material and is funneled at the end for good mechanics. The button is exactly the way I like them – thinner on the edges with a gentle rise at the centre top and bottom. The edge of the button is a good sharp angle to the stem and looks sharp. It fits well behind the teeth for a comfortable feel. The draught hole/slot in the end of the button is also funneled to deliver a mouthpiece that has the same diameter from start to finish. Comfortable and well executed. A pipe cleaner passes easily through the pipe with no obstruction. I have posted photos below of my other two of Bill’s pipes so that you can see the progress and development in his stem work.

My first one is the Christmas pipe I had him make for me. The rustication is great and the shape is well done. Note the thickness of the stem from the saddle to the button and also the thick button on the end of the stem. I reworked this stem when I received it. I thinned it down, flattened it out and thinned the button as well. I worked it until it was comfortable for me.
The second is an apple that caught my eye on one of his email updates. It was made later than the first one. The stem work is definitely improved. Note that the stem is thinner than the one above but there is a definite crown on the stem. It is almost oval in shape from an end view with thin edges and a rise/crown toward the middle of the stem. There is also an abrupt drop from the stem to the button area. The angle is quite sharp. He has also thinned down the button and made it more comfortable. The stem work is getting better and the feel in the mouth is better but it is still not quite there.
The next photo shows the same view of the newest (the third) Boyle pipe that is in my rack. Here the improvement on the stem is marked. Note the thinness of the stem from the saddle back to the button, the flatness of the stem from side to side and the improved shape of the button. To me the development and improvement can be traced in these three photos. All three pipes smoke exceptionally well. Each one is well made. But each one represents a step in Bill’s development as a pipemaker and particular in the way he fashions his stems.
Bill Boyle 4
The mechanics of this new pipe are well done. The bowl chamber came without a bowl coating and the wood was sanded very smooth. There were no pits or checking in the bowl. The countersunk inner edge of the rim gave a distinctive look to the pipe that I was not sure about at first. Since I have been smoking it the briar is darkening (not char or tar) just the natural darkening of heat and oils and it looks great.The draught hole is centered at the bottom of the bowl and seems to have a slight slope from the bottom to the top of the airhole. There is a very easy and open draw to the pipe. The fit of the stem to the shank is very good. Smooth and tight. The tenon sits deep in the mortise – if not exactly the same length then impressively close! The fit of the tenon is also smooth. The drilling of the draught in the shank is slightly high in the end of the mortise. It is not in the middle of the mortise. The tenon on the stem is drilled to match it and there is no misalignment to the two. The air pulls clearly through the pipe with no whistling at all. Using a light to shine through the various airways reveals smoothly executed airways on the inside. Very nice work on the drilling Bill. Your matching the airway in the mortise to the tenon end was well executed.
Bill Boyle 2
I have been smoking it since I received it and am very happy with it. I have smoked Virginia flake and broken flake tobaccos in it and it packs easily and stays lit. And I have to say that like all three of Bill’s pipes that I have the draught on the pipe is superb. Smoking it is a pleasure and is uncomplicated and effortless. I found that without exception Bill’s pipes smoke smooth from the get go with none of the new pipe break in woes. Thanks Bill for a well-made pipe that smokes as good as it looks! If you are interested in Bill’s work check out his website and look at the gallery – he does commissioned pipes as well. Here is the link: http://www.billboylepipes.com/

Dr Grabow Restoration and Stem Repair

Blog by Greg Wolford

I picked up this Dr Grabow Freehand at an antique mall about a month ago when I got the Wally Frank that is visible in the photos, too. It was scratched to heck on all the smooth briar and the stem was chewed completely through. But I went ahead and bought it for three reasons:

– I’ve  never had a freehand
– I have been wanting to restore a stem with a hole or, in this case, a lot of damage
– I got a pretty decent price
So, I picked it up.Greg1




Greg5 I decided to deal with the bowl first, by stripping it with acetone and soaking it overnight in an alcohol bath; I also put the stem in a OxiClean soak at this time.  After removing the bowl from the alcohol bath I then used a brass bristle brush to get all the tar and gunk out of the rusticated top grooves. Then I sanded it to remove all the scratches from the smooth briar and take the old stain off the high points using 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper.Then I used some water based black leather dye on it, getting into the recesses well and wiping of the smooth portions as I went; I wanted to keep that darker contrast in the grooves. After I had it covered to my liking I dried it with the heat gun. Next I went back to 400 grit to take down the high points and smooth areas to remove the small amount of black color from the water based dye. When that looked good to my eye I polished it with 600 grit, wiped it down with 91% isopropyl alcohol on a cotton pad to remove any left over dust and dirt.  I heated it with the heat gun again to make sure the briar was good and dry. When it was nice and warm I applied Fiebing’s dark brown spirit-based leather dye, diluted 2:1 with 91% alcohol and flamed it in; I did this twice. The color was a bit too dark now so I wiped the pipe down, taking care to not soak my cotton pad too heavily or get into the recesses too much, with alcohol until it looked right to me. I then set it aside.Greg6

Greg7 When I soaked the bowl in the alcohol bath I also left the stem in a OxiClean soak overnight. I had removed and washed it well before starting on the bowl so it was ready now to work on.Greg8 I decided to shorten and reshape the stem instead of replacing it or trying to fix the gaping holes. I used a coping saw to cut off the end, saving as much of the stem as I could. The bottom hole had also cracked so it required removing quite a lot of the stem to get most of the crack out. The next step was to grease a pipe cleaner with petroleum jelly and insert it into the stem. I then dripped some Super Glue into the crack and let it set up while I worked on something else.

When I came back to it, the glue was hardened and I was ready to move on to the next step: making a new button. I began this process by scoring a line along the top and bottom of the stem where I wanted the button with a cutoff wheel on my Dremel. After I had the new button laid out, I then started to shape it with various needle files. I began shaping from the button back, forming it into shape with the rest of the stem. This took considerable time to get it even and “natural” looking. When I was satisfied I then began to shape the end of the button.Greg9

Greg10 I shaped the bit with needle files, too, again using several to get the shape right. The first step for this was getting the angle to look right on the top; this didn’t take as long as I expected. I then began to form the bottom of the bit, trying to match the shape of the top as close as I could; this took more time and effort than I’d expected.

Making a new drought hole was something new to me. And was not without its challenges either. I used my needle files, again, to start shaping the new hole, making it a bit taller as well as wider than the hole that was left in the cut off stem. I took the extra time to fan the drought hole, too, partly because I wanted to and partly to see if I could do it. This ended up being some of the most time-consuming and tedious work of the entire project: I needed to make sure I didn’t go too thin in any direction but I wanted the hole to really funnel out well. I am pleased with the results and the way it smokes and would say it was worth the extra time and effort to accomplish it.Greg11

Greg12 After all the shaping I wiped the stem well with alcohol to clean it off for a test fit – to my mouth. The test failed; the bit was too long and too steep. So back to the files I went. I filed, tested, filed, tested a few times until it felt comfortable in my mouth and looked good to me. Now time to get it shiny again.

I began with a fine/medium grit sanding sponge. It worked very well to get in and around the bit to smooth it a bit more and to take out the file marks. I then began wet sanding with grits 220/320/400. At this point I applied some Novus 2 plastic polish. The Novus line come in three grades: 3 – the most course, 2 – the second, and 1 – the final polish. I began using this product on my motorcycle windshield a few years ago and loved it. I have numbers 1 & 2 but have yet to try 3.

After using the Novus, I began with the micro mesh, wet sanding with grits 1500/1800/2400/3200/4000 (I’m not looking at the numbers but I believe that was the correct grit numbers. I applied the Novus 2 again and then polished with micro mesh 6000/8000/12000. Now it was off to the buffer with pipe and stem.

I buffed the pipe several times around with Tripoli to get the color just where I liked it. I then moved onto the white diamond for both the pipe and stem. I took a little extra time on the stem to make sure I fine tuned the button a little more, testing it every so often. After buffing the pipe and stem with white diamond I changed to a metal buffing wheel with blue rouge to polish the metal tenon on the stem; I hate a nicely polished stem that hasn’t has the metal (if there is any) not polished, too.Greg13


Greg15 Several coats of carnauba wax was then applied to both pipe and stem. I did the final buffing with my “mushroom” on my cordless drill. I like the control I have with it and also the fact it’ll reach almost anyplace with little effort. The final touch was to polish the rustication with a soft toothbrush to make sure I didn’t have any wax residue left.Greg16 There were, and still are, some fills in the pipe but I wasn’t particularly concerned with them. Several are on the shank and it would have been “dicey” to try to fix them without ruining the nomenclature. There was one fill on the side that fell out, presumably from the softening of the putty in the alcohol bath. I missed that one until after I had already started smoking it.  If I’d seen it earlier in the process I would have fixed that one but now it’s there for the duration.Greg17 (I couldn’t get a good focused shot of the finished button.)

Review of a John Rocheleau Acorn

I am pretty certain that many of you who will read this review are unfamiliar with John Rocheleau or his pipes. John was a Canadian pipe maker and artist who, though still living, is no longer able to carve pipes. It is a shame and a loss to the pipe smoking world as he made beautiful and great smoking pipes. I keep my eyes open for them on the estate market and have been able to pick up a second one that came from John’s own collection.

I still remember driving to Kelowna, British Columbia from Vancouver to pick up this little pipe. I had talked with carver, John Rocheleau for quite a while and wanted to purchase one of his pipes. One day it happened that I had some meetings in Kelowna (about a four hour drive from Vancouver) so I called and set up an appointment to visit with John and pick out a pipe from his finished pipes. I arrived and had a great visit with John, looking at his own collection of pipes and talking about the incredible paintings that he does. John is a great artist besides being a pipe maker. We enjoyed some good tobacco and conversation and then he brought out the pipes that he had for sale. This little acorn shape just called my name. It looked amazing and when I picked it up to look it over, I fell in love with it and did not lay it down again. The workmanship on this pipe is very nice. I have smoked it quite a bit over the years since I got it. The length of the pipe is 5 1/2 inches and the bowl height is 1 1/2 inches. The outer diameter of the bowl is 1 5/8 inches. The chamber diameter is 3/4 inches and depth is 1 1/8 inches. It sits well in the nook of the hand formed by the thumb and index finger on either hand. The stamping is on the underside of the shank. It is stamped Rocheleau in script and to the left of it is stamped A49A.  


The pipe has a rusticated finish and the staining choice highlights the unique rustication. John has a achieved a rustication that looks and feels like a sandblast. I was able to sit in his shop that day and on one other occasion and watch as he rusticated the pipes with a Dremel and a cutting head. In this case he left a smooth area near the shank stem union and on the underside of the shank. The top of the bowl also has a smooth area that nicely integrated with his rustication. The stain has several distinguishable colours that show the number of coats used. There seems to be a medium brown understain that comes through in the smooth areas of the bowl and shank and in the high points of the rustication. Over this is a coat of dark brown. The result is a multidimensional look to the finish and stain of the pipe. The colour varies with the light that hits the bowl. The rim’s inner edge is straight into the bowl with a clean sharp edge. John highlights this crisp look with the smooth finish on the pattern of the rim. The outer edge is crown almost like a cap on a Rhodesian that comes to a sharp edge and drops evenly to the sides. The crowned top gives the pipe almost a Rhodesian look from the side.

The stem is a well-made saddle style with a bit of a Danish flare. From the shank stem union the saddle flares to the end where it slopes to the blade. It is hand turned ebonite or vulcanite. It is a softer feel in the mouth and on the teeth than acrylic. The stem blade tapers gradually back to the button where it flares to the same width as the flare on saddle. It is just the right thickness at the portion that rides in the mouth – not too thick or too thin. It is also durable and is made of quality material as it has not oxidized in the years I have had it. John used a briar inlaid circle in his stems as his logo. The tenon is an integral part of the stem and is chamfered outward to form a crowned end which is also countersunk and well-polished. The button is well shaped – thin at the edges with a very slight rise to the centre top and bottom, forming an eye shaped end view. The lip on the button is very slight but still fits well behind the teeth for a comfortable feel. The slot in the end of the button is also funneled and flattened to deliver a mouthpiece that has the same diameter from start to finish. John also rounded the ends of the slot giving it a finished look. The attention to detail shows the artist’s touch that John puts into his pipes. It is a comfortable and well executed pipe. A pipe cleaner passes easily through the pipe with no obstruction.

I have two of John’s pipes and both are identical in terms of internal mechanics. John mastered the airflow dynamics of his pipes and the draught is clean and easy with no whistling or tightness. It has an easy draw that makes smoking it a pleasure. The bowl chamber is drilled to a 3/4 inch diameter. The bowl was clean and raw briar with no bowl coating. The cake built up on the bowl very easily. The draught hole is centered at the slightly above the bottom of the bowl and seems to have a slight funnel leading into the shank and stem. The fit of the stem to the shank is excellent – smooth and tight with no light showing at the joint. The tenon fits well in the mortise and seems to sit deep in the mortise against the bottom. The airway is in the centre of the mortise and aligns with the airway in the tenon. The edges of the tenon have been polished and rounded and the airhole countersunk so that it meets the airway in the mortise. Looking at the airways with a flashlight it is clear to see that they are smooth and polished with no rough edges.

I have always smoked Virginias in both of John’s pipes and they seem to handle them exceptionally well. They both smoke cool and dry and deliver good flavor with the Virginias that I choose to smoke in them.

Do something crazy, I dare ya! – Piet Binsbergen, 27 October 2012

Well I am a painter by trade. www.art.co.za/peterbinsbergen

I have not painted in some time as I have taken time out to work on a PhD in the field of art. I must admit, the timing is good as I kind of painted myself into a corner over the last 10 years. My passion is pipes. For some years I have been learning the trade of repair which was born from the need to be self-sufficient. I came to learn that imitating textures on canvas has become limiting. I surround myself with exotic woods and various metals which have tickled my senses and opened doors. I have no idea where I will be going in future but my research may reveal the way ahead.  For now I am having fun, and here is my way of expression.

It started in the form of Hot Rods. Pipes I could express myself with and push the boundaries. I have still felt that I am holding back. I spend much time with the South African pipe maker Jean du Toit, aka Jan Pietenpauw (www.pietenpauw.co.za). We get into interesting debates about pipes and pipe lore and I have learnt much from him over the past few years. Sometimes we collaborate, sometimes argue about shape and form but in essence the man is a sculptor. For this reason I will not carve pipes from scratch. I simply cannot compete with master carvers of our time. Besides, my interests lie elsewhere.

While working on my Hot Rod pipes I came to realise that I may be dabbling in art of some sort. The conceptualization process is the same, the medium differs. I decided that the pipes need to tell a story, places I have been, found objects I may have collected while being out and about. This idea came to me while making up the S.A.Y. 15 Plumbing pipe after a visit to my father-in-law out of town. I have nothing to lose; the pipes belong to me and not my clients.

I admire Ollie Sylvester for doing what he does. Steven Downie is the Guru. These are people who are really pushing the boundaries. In no way do I compare myself to these people; I just set about doing what I do.

Here is my “Davey Jones” pipe inspired by watching “Pirates of the Caribbean”, I noticed that “Mr. tentacles” himself smokes a real basic pipe. Here is my version.

This is a collaboration piece between Jan Pietenpauw and myself. He is in the process of carving the BIPS form 2013 poy’s. This stummel was misjudged on his part while in the jig on the lathe. The shank cracked in the process and it landed up in his trash box. Now I love his trash box. I have lifted many “Not good enough” stummels from that box in the past. Nothing wrong with them at all, they just do not fit the master’s creative bill, but they sure fit mine at times.

The shank ring is aluminum. It was polished at first but it looked to new so that too ended up under the Dremel. The idea was to create something that looked like it came from Davey Jones’ locker, polished and cleaned. It is the first time I have taken a Dremel to a stem. This is a pre-moulded stem with an olive shank ring added. I went crazy trying to create the same texture as on the pipe so it would eaten or drift wood rotten. The contrast between the textured area and the high polished stem was a little close so I got the needed contrast by adding an oil paint white wash to the textured are before polishing the stem. Finally, to add to the craziness I heated the stem and formed the bend.

Here is the craziest pipe I have ever done!






Hot Rods – next round please, Basket briar massacre. (October 2012) Part 2 – Piet Binsbergen

Ok, so here is the silly bit.

These 2 pipes I did not photograph before I started. Once again apologies!

Die Braaivleis pyp (Afrikaans for the BBQ pipe)

This is my opinion. I guess that basket briars are not that bad. What makes them unattractive is that they are drilled skew and full of putty. Now skew drilling sucks and these pipes are laid to rest. When I do find pipes that look like the drilling is solid enough I often find the bowls to be full of putty fills hence they become basket briars. So why do they do it then? Well, time is money and to fill a pipe and sand it, covering it with a dark stain seems to be fast and cost effective.

I have found that if one spends time and uses the right tools, with some practise you can rusticate the bowl and the fills become part of the character of the pipe. So why do the pipe manufacturers not do it then? The answer again is a simple one! Time versus money. A solid rustication job may take me some hours. Now hours I have, low end pipe manufacturers do not!

In time I will put together a photo essay of my rustication process.

With this pipe, the bowl was semi rusticated. I added a silver shank ring and fitted a green Lucite shank ring for contrast. The stem was replaced.
The Bushveld Poker

Before you all have a stroke, this is NOT a CASTELLO but a Purex basket briar.

This was fun as I could get the stummel into the lathe chuck and work it back into true. The drilling was good but the tobacco chamber was off set to the outside of the bowl (Welcome to the wonderful world of basket briars). I was able to turn the bowl down just a bit to bring it back into true. I also added some rings. As the bowl was full of fills lower down on the stummel I used the same rustication process as above. I added a silver shank ring for contrast. The stem is a screw in type fit with one of those nasty stingers fixed to the tenon of the stem. Here I removed the stinger and saved the stem. This is one of the few pipes that had a stem which was saveable so I went through the motions of bleaching soaking and polishing. All the pipes have draft holes open to 4mm.

Dr. Grabow Colour – Damaged and Reborn

Blog by Steve Laug

I have had this old Dr. Grabow Coloured pipe for a long time. It had damage to the colour coat and to the rim. I kept putting off doing anything with it as I could see no way of repairing the colour coat. It had the nylon stem as well with the Medico filter system. It was a screw mount tenon. The stem was covered with tooth marks and I just did not want to do anything with it… until yesterday.

Yesterday morning I took the pipe out of the box of pipes for repair and wiped it down with some acetone to see if I could clean up the bowl. At this point it was my plan to find some of the same coloured paint and respray the paint on the bowl to fix the spots where it was scratched off. I put the pipe bowl in my pocket and took a trip to Walmart to see if I could match the yellow colour of the paint. I went through about 6 or 7 different yellow colours and none matched. I stuck it back in my pocket and headed home. By this point I had decided to strip the bowl back to the wood and see what was under the paint. I had always heard that the bowls used in these pipes were pretty devoid of grain and had many fills so I figured what did I have to lose on stripping the paint.

I dropped the bowl in the alcohol bath for several hours while I was working on other things around the house. My hope was to loosen the paint coat not dissolve it into the water. Isopropyl should not dissolve the paint but it would certainly soften the paint and penetrate under the paint coat through the scratch marks in the surface. After I removed the bowl from the bath I used a sanding pad with medium grit and rubbed it across the painted surface and the paint began to peel back very easily. The next series of three photos show the effect of the paint coming off with a very light sanding.

I continued to sand the paint coat until it was gone. The next series of four photos show the bowl after the sanding. The paint coat is gone; all that remains is the light coating of yellow haze that will come off with a quick acetone wash. Once the paint was gone I was left with a pretty bland block of briar. There were fills around the front of the bowl and the sides. The shank, right side had a large fill that extended most of the length of the shank. The rim was in great shape with no dents of burns. The inner bevel on the rim was in great shape. I reamed the bowl to clean up the inside and the softened cake. It came out smooth and fresh. I cleaned the shank to remove and of the remaining tars and oils.

Once I had the internals cleaned up I washed the bowl down with a cotton pad and acetone. This removed the remnants of the yellow paint. It is amazing to me to see the amount of yellow colouration that came off with the acetone. The wood had quite a bit of yellow pigment on the surface of the bowl. I washed it down until the pads remained white. I sanded the tooth chatter and marks on the nylon stem (did I ever tell you how much I hate these nylon stems?? No? Well they are truly a pain). I was able to get the majority of the tooth marks out with emery cloth and then 240 grit sandpaper. I attached the stem to the bowl to have a look at what I had to work with  and where I should go with the finish work.

The fills seemed pretty disguised in the light colour of the briar so I decided to do a bit of an experiment. With a pipe of this calibre what do you have to lose? I stained it with a black aniline stain, flamed it and stained it a second time. My hope was that the fills would be hidden well by the stain coat. At first glance they seemed to remain hidden under the stain. I took the pipe to the buffer once it was dry and buffed the bowl with Tripoli to give it a shine and polish. As I did that the fills really stood out. The matte finish of the black hid them but the shine made them stand out. In the second photo below you can see the round fills on the front of the bowl. The one on the shank also stood out a bit.

The next series of photos show the pipe after a buff with Tripoli and White Diamond. The fills on the front now appeared to be a pinkish/red colour under the black coat. The one on the shank also looked pinkish/red. In the second photo below you can see where I restained the fill area on the shank. It was a large fill shaped almost like a moustache. Once it was dry I buffed it again with a light touch. The fills were just too obvious and ugly in my opinion. I even tried giving the pipe a top coat of dark brown stain to see if that would hide them. It did not. So I set the pipe down and went to supper. While I was eating I thought about the possibility of rusticating the bowl and giving the pipe a whole new look.

I took out my modified Philips screwdriver that I use for rustication and went to work on it. The screwdriver has the x pattern and a point. I used my Dremel to cut out the point and create four points with the remaining tip. It has a handle which I pad with a thick cotton cloth so that I can push it into the wood and minimize the discomfort on my palm from pressing. 

In the picture above you can see the work of rustication. The picture below shows the red coloured fills on the front of the bowl that made the decision to rusticate pretty easy for me.

I worked my way around the bowl as is seen in the next series of photos. I worked the front and then the bottom of the bowl and worked my way up each side of the bowl. In this case I decided that I wanted to see what the pipe would look like with a rusticated bowl and a smooth shank so I left the shank untouched with the rustication until I had finished the bowl.

The next three photos show the rusticated bowl and smooth shank look of the pipe. It just did not work for me. I did not like the look. As an aside – one of the great things with the rustication tool I use is the ability to use it in tight spaces and leave the surrounding surface untouched. By the way you will also note the photos that I left the rim smooth as well. 

The next two photos show the putty fills that were used. They seemed to have been white putty that was chalky when I scratched into it during the rustication process. You can see the location and the size of the fills in these photos. I am glad that I decided to rusticate this bowl.

I wrapped the shank and stem junction with a cellophane tape in multiple layers and extended onto the shank a quarter inch. I wanted to make a smooth band that would not be rusticated and match the smooth rim that I was leaving. The tape gave me an edge so that I would feel that as I twisted the tool in rusticating the shank. I also would give an edge to put the teeth of the tool against when I twisted it into the wood of the shank. The next series of photos show the rusticated shank. On the first one you can see the size of the fill on the right side of the shank. It also was the same white putty. As I hit it with the rusticator it left a white chalky residue. You can also see the intent of the band on the shank and the rim of the bowl being left smooth and what that would look like in contrast with the rough finish.

When I had finished the rustication I removed the tape guard and then sanded the band to get it smooth and to bring out the grain with dark undercoat.

Once that was complete I stained the pipe with a black aniline stain. I applied it heavily and then flamed it. The flaming sets the stain deep in the grooves and recesses of the rustication. I gave the rim and the band a coat of black as well. Once it was on I rubbed it off with a soft cloth to get the effect that is visible in the pictures below.

Once the stain was dry I worked on the smooth areas of the bowl – the rim and the band – with micromesh pads from 1500-6000 to polish them and smooth them out. I also worked on the nylon stem. It was a pain. The material scratches no matter what you do to it. And as I learned a long time ago it does not work to buff it as it has a very low melting point. So I sanded it with increasing grits of wet dry sandpaper – 400 to 600 grit and water and then sanded it with wet micromesh pads from 1500-12,000 to remove the scratching. I polished it on the buffer with blue polishing compound and a verrrrry light touch to give it a shine. I had waxed the smooth surfaces and the stem with carnauba and then wiped the pipe down with a cloth impregnated with Briar Wipe. Here is the finished pipe. I think the experiment worked!

Reworking a John Bessai Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

I picked this old pipe up on EBay for a very cheap price. In fact I think the postage was more than the pipe. I had read on the forums that John Bessai carved some great smoking pipes.

Pipedia has this information http://pipedia.org/index.php?title=Bessai

John Bessai was a long time pipemaker, repairman and tobacco shop owner who operated his pipe shop at the “Old Arcade” in Cleveland, Ohio. The shop was opened in approximately 1898. It was a small 2-room shop where he hand-crafted his own pipes in the back room and could work when customers were not there. Like so many other shop made brand, John Bessai’s limited production was quickly acquired by regular customers and thus his craftsmanship remained little known outside of Ohio and the Midwest. While his name is known by pipe collectors in the Midwest, his work is seldom seen elsewhere! He died before 1969. Nevertheless, John Bessai left behind a small number of classic shaped pipes; all were made on-site. They are praised worthy of collecting and reflecting skills well beyond most American pipe makers. John Bessai’s logo “JB” appeared as one letter as the “back” of the “J” and the “back” of the “B” share a single line. The logo was stamped on the stem and on the left side of the shank. His son Herb Bessai took over the business and also continued making pipes. He closed the shop in about 1978.

I was excited to have one of his pipes and looked forward to its arrival here in Canada. When it came and I opened the package I loved the shape and the feel of the pipe, but the large fills really bugged me. I cleaned up the pipe and gave it a smoke to see if I would even keep it. It smoked incredibly well and the draw was effortless. It was comfortable and lightweight so it seemed like one that I would keep. But what to do with the fills that covered the right side and the front of the bowl puzzled me. I wanted to keep the pipe clearly a Bessai pipe. I did not want to destroy what he had carved but I wanted to do something to deal with the fills.


So I decided to rusticate it with a leather-like rustication and then give it a contrast stain on it give it an interesting look. I used my rustication tool (the pipe and nails that I have written about in another post on the blog) to cut into the finish and rusticate the surface of the bowl. Once the bowl was rusticated to the place I liked I took it to the buffer and buffed off the rough spots and made the overall surface smooth to the touch. I then stained it with a coat of black aniline stain and flamed it to set the stain. Once it was dry I took it to the buffer and removed the black stain on the high spots with a Tripoli buffing pad. I then took it back to the desk and gave it a coat of medium brown aniline stain and flamed it. I let it dry and then buffed it with White Diamond. I then buffed the whole pipe with White Diamond to polish the stem and bowl and gave it several coats of carnauba wax. I used a light touch on the bowl as I did not want to fill the grooves with wax. ImageImageImageImage

Another Rustication – another finish with the new tool

Blog by Steve Laug

I have been looking through my box of pipes for refurbishing for a second one to rusticate with the new tool. I had several laid aside as potential candidates for this treatment but had not gotten around to doing it yet. Then this week I received a box of pipes and pipe parts from a purchase on EBay. In the box was this little apple shaped pipe. It had a large split in the shank that is visible in the photo below. The bowl was also extremely caked and needed to be reamed and cleaned. I always do that field dressing before I go to work on the deep clean and refinishing. Before I could do anything with the finish on this pipe I would need to repair the cracked shank. I cleaned the surface of the shank and used a dental pick to remove the grit that had built up in the crack. I wanted the surface to be clean so that the glue would adhere correctly and bind the two sides of the crack cleanly together. I then filled the split with superglue and squeezed the crack together with a pair of pliers. After the glue dried I banded the shank with a pressure fit nickel band. I reworked the tenon so that the stem fit correctly.


When I had repaired the pipe I examined the bowl to see what choices I might have regarding refinishing. The shape is one of my favourites so I would have like to just do a clean and re-stain of the bowl. However, the closer I looked the more I realized that my only option, if I were to hide the fills and crack well, was a rustication. So my choice was made and I decided to rusticate it with the new tool I had crafted from the Philips screwdriver. I also decided to give it a bit of a different rusticated look than the previous one I have posted here. I wanted to see if the tool would give a bit of versatility in the rustication pattern that it created. With that mission in mind I attacked the bowl seen in the pictures below.


I wiped down the outside of the bowl with some acetone to clean off the grime and give me a fresh surface to work on. I spread out a cloth on my work table to collect wood chunks that came out in the rustication. I have found that it is easier to clean up after my work this way as I merely have to fold up the cloth and shake it out when I am finished. From the last time I used the tool I had learned that the handle was hard on the palm of my hand so I also wrapped it with a thick cotton cloth to act as a pad. This additional padding would add a cushion of comfort for me as I pressed and twisted the shaft into the briar of the bowl. The picture below shows the beginning of the process of rustication. I generally start with the side of the bowl while holding the bowl in my hand and pressing the shaft of the tool into the wood and twisting it and moving across the surface of the wood. I often move from the side of the bowl to the shank. In this case I did a portion of the bowl and then moved to the shank and did the rustication all the way around the shank and on the bottom of the bowl before moving on to finish the bowl.


This rustication pattern is slightly different than the previous one. I was aiming to experiment with the versatility and it was working well in my opinion. I decided to go over the surface of the bowl only one time before checking and roughing up sections that needed further roughening. I wanted the finish to have a softer look on this bowl than the first one I did. I also wanted to leave some high spots that could be polished to give a contrast finish rather than a matte finish. I think the feature I like the most in the new tool is the ability to navigate the tip very close to the band without damaging it. It is very easy to control in tight spaces on the pipe. The four pictures below show the pipe after the rustication is completed. Above and to the right in each picture is the blade of the tool that I use in the process of rustication.


Once the rustication was completed I used some 240, 400, and 600 grit sandpaper to sand the top of the bowl and clean it of stain and dark spots. My goal for the rim was to be able to see the grain patterns once it was stained as it would serve as a contrast to the rough surface of the bowl.

The pipe was ready to be stained. I decided to use a dark brown stain on this one, knowing full well that when I gave it a buff it would lighten considerably. I applied the Fiebings stain with the dauber that came with it. I find that the wool ball on the end of the dauber is thick enough that it carries the stain into the nooks and crannies of the rusticated surface. When I stain a pipe bowl, I always start on the bottom of the bowl as the stain will run toward the top. I follow it up the sides with good coverage and finish with a coat on the rim of the pipe as the last thing. It seems to also help keep the stain on the outside of the bowl. I generally stain the shank once the bowl is completed.

When the entirety is stained I light it with a match to flame the stain. The flame burns off the alcohol with a blue flame that sets the stain more deeply in the briar and helps it dry it quickly. The fire is short-lived and there is no concern of setting your bowl on fire. Be sure however to remove the open jar of stain so that you do not inadvertently set that on fire. I then re-stained the pipe a second time following the same pattern, flamed and set it aside while I work on the oxidation on the stem. I let the stained bowl dry for two hours before taking it to the buffer and giving a light buff with Tripoli and White Diamond. I decided to buff this bowl instead of just leaving it rough like the previous one because I was trying to achieve a different look.

I finished the buffing by giving it a light buff with carnauba wax. I am happy with the finished pipe and the look that it has. It is very different from the previous pipe I rusticated with the tool and demonstrates the capacity of the tool to work different finishes.

The final four pictures below show the finished pipe.


A New Rustication Method

Blog by Steve Laug

I finished cleaning up a pipe bowl, turned the tenon and fit the stem on it this afternoon, but then I was stuck. The pipe is stamped D in a circle and next to that Dover Cliff, it had a pleasing shape but was almost entirely without grain. I know this sounds impossible to most of us, but truly there was very little grain even visible on the bowl or shank. Rather, it was a piece of briar that was made up of bald spots connected by a few straight grains. It also had three significant burn marks – on the bottom of the shank, the top of the shank and on the rim. Added to that problem, there were probably 20 or more fills per side of the pipe that looked like scratches but were actually filled with black putty. They are visible in the sanded and clean bowl pictured below. The front and the back of the bowl also had fills. Interestingly, the rim was without fills as was the shank. The rim was chamfered inward toward the bowl but had burn marks all around the bowl as if it had been lit with a torch. My question was what to do with the finish on this pipe. I knew from experience that a coat of stain would only highlight the many flaws rather than hide them. The burn marks were significant enough that even sanded, they had permanently coloured the wood. No amount of stain would hide the burns on the shank and the rim. I could give it a solid stain of black or brown but I was not interested in using a solid body stain. That left me with two options – put it back in the box for another day or rusticate it. I decided to rusticate it and then stain it.


I took out my rustication tools and looked them over – the fistful of nails and the florist frog, (I have shown these both in a separate post on rusticating) and decided it was time to try something different. I took out my Dremel and put on the cutting/grinding wheel and took a Philips screwdriver and ground the tip off of it. Once I had ground the point off I used the grinding tool to cut a trench both ways across the remaining + to create what I was looking for. Once that was done the screwdriver was left with four points on the head of the shaft. These four points were sharp teeth. I polished the steel with my buffer and my new tool finished. The great thing was that it even had a comfortable handle which would allow me a bit of creature comfort as I pushed it into the briar and twisted it to rusticate the wood. It also would provide a very different rustication pattern in the briar than my other tools. It would produce a very rough rustication pattern that should be interesting on this particular pipe.


I decided to take my time and document the process as I worked on the pipe. As I worked on each step of the rustication I took photographs and wrote down what I had done. The tool worked very well and was a good fit in the hand. The sharp teeth cut deeply into the briar and left a rough finish to the surface of the briar. The process went quickly. It took me about a half hour to complete what turned out to be the first level of rustication. I left the rim of the pipe smooth and left a smooth rectangular area on the shank where the stamping remains. I decided to also leave a smooth band around the shank where it joins the stem. I find that it makes it much easier to match a stem to the smooth surface than to a rusticated chipped surface. All of these smooth spots stand out nicely. To protect the shank and create a band near the stem I wrapped the shank with cello tape up the shank about ¼ inches. The tape would protect it from the points of the tool and provide a straight edge for me to work against. I also put a strip of tape over the area where there was stamping on the shank to protect it. I avoided the rim as I rusticated the pipe so there was no need to tape it off. One of the great features of this new tool is the small tip size that allows me to rusticate very closely to the shank/bowl junction and up to the top edge of the bowl. It also was very easy to work near the band that I was creating at the stem/shank junction. The ease of control  made this a great tool to use.



I worked my way down the sides of the pipe from top to bottom. From there I moved to the shank sides from the bowl to the stem and the top of the shank from the stem to the bowl. I used the same pattern on the other side of the shank around the stamping and then on the underside of the shank and bowl. Once I had it completed it that far I took a few pictures and then proceeded to rusticate the remaining side of the pipe and back end at the shank/bowl junction. I finished the rustication with working on the front of the pipe. Once the pipe was fully rusticated the burn marks were pretty much obliterated and were definitely less visible. The many fills in the bowl were hidden under the rustication. I used a wire brush on the pipe bowl to knock of the loose chips of wood before I gave it an initial coat of dark brown stain.  I flamed the stain to set it deeply in the briar. It burned with the signature blue flame for quite awhile setting the stain in the deep grooves. Once it was dry I laid it aside for a bit and then took it to the buffer and gave it a light buff with red Tripoli. The finished pipe still needed more work in my opinion before it would be acceptable.


I took time to look over the pipe and handle it to get a feel for the rustication. I like a random look to the rustication rather than a repeated pattern. To me it looks more natural once it is finished. After this inspection I decided to give it a second level of rustication with the tool to make it even more rustic and more random in its look. This second rustication was much easier to do and took less time. One of the benefits of having the brown stain on the bowl is that the new places I rusticated were raw and stood out clearly. I could easily see where I needed to do more work on the bowl.  I worked my way around the bowl and shank again. I checked to see if it was in keeping with the look I wanted it to have and gave it a few more twists of the tool. Now it was ready for the finish stain.


Before I stained the pipe I needed to do some work on the rim. To address the burned areas on the rim the best decision was to top the bowl. It was not only burned but also worn around the inside edge of the rim and that needed to be addressed. I sanded in a slight bevel on the inner rim to restore the roundness of the bowl and give it a finished look. I re-stained the rim with the dark brown and let it dry before I re-stained the whole pipe with oxblood stain applied with the wool dauber that came with the stain. The pipe soaked up the stain nicely. I stained the top of the bowl and the smooth portions on the side of the shank and the band around the shank near the stem. I let it dry for several hours before I polished the smooth portions.  This drying also revealed some places on the bowl that needed a bit more stain to adequately cover them. So I re-stained those portions that showed bare wood in the crevices.


I used the micromesh sanding pads (1500 through 6000 grit) on the smooth parts of the pipe to polish them.  Once that was done I waxed the smooth portions. Then I buffed them with a soft cloth to give them a bit of contrast to the rusticated portions. I decided to leave the rusticated part with a matte finish. The pipe is finished in terms of the rustication and the staining. I will need to let the oxblood stain dry overnight before it is thoroughly dry.  The bowl feels amazingly good in the hand. The tactile nature of the rustication really gives it a rough yet pleasant feel.


The bowl is finished and ready for the stem. The above pictures give you the idea of what it looked like once it was finished. The contrast on the rim and on the smooth parts of the shank added a nice touch and highlighted the rustication. In person the pipe is a deep rich oxblood/cordovan colour that is not captured in the pictures above. The pits and crevices actually show the red and give depth to the rusticated surface. I gave the pipe one more once over under a bright light and touched up spots on the finish that did not get a good coat of the stain. I then went over the smooth surfaces with another coat of wax and hand buffed them before setting the pipe bowl aside for the night.

I then tackled the stem to remove scratches that showed up in the bright light. I used some 240 grit to take out some of the deeper grooves and some tooth dents in the reclaimed and reworked stem. My method is to remove the deeper grooves with the 240 grit and then use the 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper afterwards. I find that if I use those first it seems to only polish the grooves rather than remove them. The 240 grit gives a solid base to work with in the polishing that takes place with the wet dry sandpaper and then the further polishing with the micro-mesh pads. I finished the polishing with 1500, 1800, 2400, 3200, 4000 and 6000 grit micro-mesh that was kept wet in a bowl of water that I kept by the work table. I changed the water between grits to keep it clean and to ensure that I was not polishing the older grime into the stem. The stem came out beautifully and was ready to be put back on the pipe while it rested overnight.

The next morning I polished the stem and the smooth areas of the pipe and rechecked the rustication to make sure that all areas were covered by the stain. I took the pictures below after it had been polished and was ready to smoke. The new rusticated finish creates a far better looking pipe in my opinion and provides a very tactile pipe for the pipe smoker who likes rusticated finishes. The new tool worked so well that I will have to sort through my box of bowls to re-stem to see if there is another pipe that could benefit from this kind of face lift. Thanks for looking.


Steve Laug

June 04, 2012