Tag Archives: rustication method

Procedure for hand rusticating a pipe

I have rusticated quite a few pipes over the years and by much experimenting, with successes and failures have learned a few tricks in the process. I am by no means an expert in the process. I continue to experiment with developing different patterns of rustication and deeper, craggier finishes. I have done some rustications that have the look of old leather and others that are gritty and rough. I love the process of experimenting and seeing what I can make with the tools that I have close at hand. I am including some photos of the finishes I have done to illustrate the variety of patterns that can be achieved.

The first pipe is an author carved by John Bessai. It had so many fills in the briar that it was a mess in my opinion. It was a prime candidate for a new look. I used the handmade tool – nails in a piece of pipe to achieve the rustication and then buffed it with Tripoli to smooth out the high spots. I stained it with a black undercoat and dark brown top coat.
BessaiAfter2 BessaiAfter4
The second one is one of my own carvings. I wanted a look similar to the one on the Bessai by smoother and more leatherlike in terms of a finished look. I rusticated it with nails in a pipe, wire brushed the finish and then sanded to smooth out the high spots. I used a black understain and medium brown top stain to get the finish. finishedcarving003-1
The third pipe was a small Canadian with many fills in the shank and bowl. I did a shallow rustication with the pipe and nails and then used a dark brown and medium brown stain to get the look. All three of the first pipes have a leatherlike finish to them that was achieved by sanding or buffing the highspots on the finish after rusticating.IMG_6503 IMG_6504 IMG_6506
The fourth pipe pictured below was one of my creations, my first Frankenpipe composed of three different pipes. I used a Philips screwdriver that I made into a rustication tool to achieve the rustication pattern on the shank. I left areas in the pattern that were smooth. I stained the gouges with a black stain and the rest of the pipe with a medium brown stain. I wire brushed the rustication and then buffed it with Tripoli. img_6556
The fifth pipe pictured is another Canadian I rusticated. This one was a pipe that I finished shaping and made a stem for. The briar was bland with poor grain. It had a lot of bald spots in the briar so I decided to do a black and tan finish on it. IMG_2575 IMG_2577
The next two rustications were done with the Philips screwdriver. I tried for two different finishes on these pipes. The first is quite deep but then brushed and buffed before staining. The idea was to give a random broken look to the pattern. I stained it with a medium brown stain. The second is a very craggy rough finish. I used the screwdriver and went over the briar three times to roughen it and give it the roughness I wanted. I reversed the stains on this one and did a medium brown understain and a black topcoat. IMG_7749 photo3
I have rusticated many other pipes using a variety of tools that I have developed or repurposed to experiment with over the years. I have used a pipe with nails, a handmade wooden handle with nails, a floral frog, a modified Philips Screwdriver a flat blade screwdriver notched and sharpened, and a Dremel tool with a variety of burrs. I have used different sizes and clusters of nails in the pipe and each one achieves a slight variation of pattern on the finished briar. Each tool delivers a different finish and look. Even with the same tool a variety can be achieved by wire brushing the finish, buffing or sanding. I have also used a combination of tools at times – the nails and the floral frog work well together to make a tighter smaller rustication while the screwdrivers and the nails also give a unique looking pattern.

However, no matter which tool I use I always follow the same process. I have broken it down into steps in the list below for ease of use.

1. Clean the surface of the wood – I clean the surface of the briar with either acetone or isopropyl alcohol to remove the grime and the existing finish on the pipe. I do this because I like working on a clean surface. I know that others do not do this before rustication so the choice is yours.

2. Stain the surface with a dark stain to show contrast when rusticating – Many stain the briar with a dark stain before rusticating to make it easier to see the developing pattern in the rustication. Personally I only do this if the briar is raw and unstained. A stained pipe already has colour and the rustication shows up quite well.

3. Tape off any spots that you want to leave smooth using masking tape or painters tape. I wrap it with several layers of tape to protect the smooth wood underneath from an accidental slip when I am working the tools. I have also used scotch or cellophane tape. The idea is not to abuse the tape but use it as a straight edge to work toward and around. I often tape the shank end but you can also tape the line around the rim as well.

4. If partially rusticating a bowl mark off the area that you will rusticate with a permanent marker. On the Frankenpipe above I marked the angle of the shank and bowl junction that I wanted to rusticate.

5. Choose the place on the briar to start – personally I always start on the side of the bowl when rusticating. I remove the stem and work on the bowl alone. I have seen others snap a tenon while rusticating so I remove it. I work from the side down to the bottom of the bowl. I work the bottom of the bowl and then move to the shank and work the side that connects to side I have rusticated. I then work my way around the rest of the bowl.

6. I rusticate by pushing the rusticator into the wood and twisting it to gouge the briar. The harder you push the tool into the briar the deeper the rustication will be. So decide how deep or rough a rustication you are aiming for and press accordingly. Do not be afraid to rusticate too deeply. Most people are too timid and end up with mere scratches on the wood the first time they try the process.

7. Use a wire brush to knock off loose pieces of briar and chips that are left behind on the surface. I brush quite aggressively as there is no fear of scratching the briar. The idea is to clean up the rustication pattern. The more aggressively you brush the more variation you will get in the pattern. You can also buff the bowl and shank at this point as well to further smooth out the surface. If it is still too rough for your liking then lightly sand the high spots with 220 grit sandpaper to knock it down further.

8. Clean off the bowl with isopropyl alcohol on a soft cloth to remove the dust left behind by rusticating and wire brushing. I do this to prepare the finish to be stained. It dries very quickly so it is not a problem to stain immediately afterwards. I also use an aniline (alcohol) based stain so it is truly not an issue.

9. Stain the bowl with either the final stain or a base coat. I generally use a dark base coat and flame it with a lighter. Once it is dry wipe the high spots down with isopropyl or buff them with Tripoli. I then give the bowl a top coat of a lighter or the final stain and flame it again. I like the contrast look of dark valleys and lighter ridges on a rusticated pipe.

10. Buff the pipe lightly with White Diamond and then use Halcyon II wax to give the bowl a light shine. I have also used olive oil at this point instead of wax. I use a folded paper towel that has been dampened with olive oil and wipe down the bowl making sure to get into all the crevices or valleys in the finish.

That is the process I use to rusticate. The results are worth the effort to me. I like the feel of the rustication as the bowl warms in my hand. I like the looks of the finished bowl as it takes on age through use. Why not try it out on one of your own pipes or an estate that you have that is just too bland to draw your eye? Go for it and enjoy the process.

Making a Rustication Tool out of a Phillips Screwdriver

Blog by Steve Laug

I have made several rustication tools from screwdrivers in my tool box. It is a pretty simple process so I thought I would document it through text and pictures. Hopefully some of you will find this useful.

I start with a regular Phillips screwdriver which is a screwdriver with a blunted pointed tip that is shaped to fit the crossed slots in the heads of Phillips screws. It is distinguished from a Reed and Prince screwdriver which has a pointed tip. The photos below show the tip of the screwdriver before I begin working on it.


You can choose any kind of Phillips screwdriver or Reed Prince screwdriver but I would recommend one with a comfortable handle. The one I made in the photos below has a hard plastic handle and when I am pushing and turning it into the briar it is hard on the palm of my hand so I wrap it in a thick cotton cloth for cushioning. You may wish to use one with a softer rubber coated handle to begin with.

A Dremel makes short work of the shaping and cutting process in crafting this tool. I use several Dremel bits to do the grinding. The first is an 11/16 x 3/8 inch Blue Cobalt Grinding Stone with a 1/8 inch shank. It is 2 inches in length from shaft to tip. The second is a 19/32 x 11/32 inch Brown Aluminum Oxide Cylinder Grinding Stone with a 1/8 inch shank. It is 1 1/2 inches in length from shaft to tip. I finish by polishing it with a sanding drum on my Dremel.

The next two photos show the Cobalt grinding stone on the Dremel and the work of cutting the tip off and then cutting into the grooves of the cross mark.


The next four photos show the finished work of the Cobalt grinding stone. I apologize for the poor quality of the photos but they give the idea of the process. The first photo show an end view of the four points beginning to be defined on the tip of the screwdriver. The next three photos show profile views of the tip at this point in the process. Once I get to this point it is time to change the grinding stone for the aluminum oxide stone.




The next photo shows the aluminum oxide grinding stone in the Dremel and the work ready to begin in grinding the tip to sharper and more defined points. I do this with the grinding stone held at an angle to the tip so that I can cut valleys into the cross point of the tip.

The next series of photos show the tip of the tool in its finished condition after the aluminum oxide stone has been used to cut the grooves deeply and define the points of the tool. At this point in the process I switch to the sanding drum and polish the tip and burnish the edges of the teeth.



The tool is finished and ready to be used to rusticate the surface of the briar. The method is quite simple. The tip of the tool is pressed into the surface of the briar and then twisted and turned as it cuts grooves and valleys into the briar. This is done over the entire surface of the pipe or in selected areas. The beauty of this tool is that is can be used in very tight areas of the surface such as the angle of the bowl and shank union. You can also work it carefully to leaves unmarked surface as you wish.

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!






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!

Old Croydon-Reborn

I have spent a bit of time on this old Croydon Bent (Peterson Line of seconds I believe). In fact I probably spent more time than I should have done, judging by other refurbishers throw away buckets. Sometimes I just have to see what I can make of an old tired ugly looking pipe. It is a challenge more than it is a labour of restoration. In fact it could probably be argued that when I am done with this one it really no longer should be considered a Croydon at all. I suppose it is a matter of how far one goes in the process of restoration before it becomes a totally new work of briar. In my mind this one would probably qualify for the removal of the name – or at least a hyphenated name CROYDON-REBORN.

When I received this one it was in pretty rough shape. In the pictures below you can see the state of the finish on the bowl. There were places where pieces of the lacquer finish were peeling away and falling off. The stain on the bowl was spotted and variegated. Even the many fills all over the bowl had shrunken significantly and what remained were dips and divots in the surface. The rim was one part of the pipe that was in pretty good shape. It had some tar build up and a bit of blackening but no nicks and dents. That is actually remarkable given the condition of the rest of the pipe. The silver shank cap was split in half and torn from the stem being jammed in and out of the bowl. The P-lip stem was also marked with tooth chatter, was oxidized and dented.


I did not have any end caps in my collection of pipe odds and ends so I decided to put a regular nickel band on the shank as it was thin and weakened from the broken shank cap. I cleaned the shank end with alcohol and dried it out. I heated a band and pressure fit it on the shank. There was a small gap at the edge that I filled with wood glue to give stability to the shank. I probably should have waited to apply the band but the shank seemed fragile and I wanted to stabilize it before further work on the bowl.

I have never liked the thin Peterson type stems so I decided to restem it with a saddle fish tail stem. I used my PIMO tenon turner and turned the tenon close and sanded it to a good tight fit. I used my Dremel to take down the excess diameter of the stem and worked on the ridges and seams with the Dremel. I sanded the roughness of the new stem until it was smooth with 240 grit sandpaper followed by 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper and a bit of water. It was finished with the regular regimen of micromesh pads – 1500, 1800, 2400, 3200, 4000 and 6000 grit. The final polish was done on the buffer with White Diamond and carnauba wax.

The bowl was a major problem. I tried to strip the bowl using acetone and 99% Isopropyl alcohol and could not break through the finish – don’t what they coated it with but it would not let go. I resorted to sanding the bowl to try and remove the finish and sanded, sanded and re-treated it with acetone and alcohol. The finish was finally gone and I had a raw briar bowl with so many fills in it that it looked like it had freckles. I decided to try staining it with a dark brown stain to hide the fills and give it a good deep colour that was a bit opaque. Once it was dry I buffed it and polished it with wax. It looked really awful and I hated it!!! Soooo… I decided to rusticate it. I used my fist full of nails (pipe with nails inserted in it) to do the rustication that appears in the photos below. The previous coat of stain that I had applied helped with the process of rustication and I could clearly see where I needed to do a bit more work. This is when I wished that the band was not present as it would have been a bit easier to avoid contact with the band and the rusticator.



Once the rustication was acceptable to me, and the pipe felt good in the hand I prepared it for staining. On this one that involved using the floral frog to knock off any loose chips of briar and to smooth out the surface before I wiped it down with a damp alcohol cloth. I also sanded the rim smooth and used the micromesh to get rid of any scratches. A smooth rim and a smooth spot around the Croydon stamping would look good on the finished pipe. I decided to go for an aged leather like finish on this pipe as it seemed to fit the shape and the look. I gave the pipe a coat of black stain as an undercoat and then buffed it off the high spots. I gave the entirety a coating of Fiebing’s Medium Brown for the top coat. I flamed it and after drying took it to the buffer for a light buff. I waxed it with Halcyon II and buffed it with a soft cloth to give it the final look. Below are pictures of the finished pipe. In my book it is a significant improvement over the original!


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

Rustication – A Pictoral Essay

Over the years I have been developing a process for rusticating pipes. I have used it on old estates that I have been given or purchased where the finish did not work for me or it had too many fills or pits. The tools I use are pictured below. The one on the left is a variation of a tool that I made from plans on Tyler Lane’s Pipe making site. It is made of a piece of black 1 inch pipe. I packed it with galvanized nails and then a cap is put on the end of it. The cap is packed with steel wool to keep the nails from shifting. I plan to make another variation on this and use a T union that will serve as a handle. The current cap is hard on the palm of the hand as I twist it into the surface of the pipe. I also want to weld the nails in place to avoid any shifting of them as I use the tool. The second tool is a florist’s frog – it has a lead base with sharp spikes (watch your hands and fingers on this one) that is used in floral arrangements. I got this at an antique shop. I want to create a wooden handle for this one to give me a bit more distance from the surface of the briar when I am working it over the wood.

I start rusticating the briar with the large tool on the left and then finish with the smaller one on the right should I want to achieve a bit different pattern or rustication. Either individually or together they provide an interesting rustication. The larger tool does the gross work and the smaller one adds finesse to the rustication.


For the sake of showing the process I have chosen the following old timer – a Dr. Plumb carved apple that had a finish that I did not like. It had a carved finish of lines around the bowl and then horizontally on the shank. The original pipe is pictured below in the first two pictures to give an idea of the original state of the pipe. I also include pictures of a Canadian that is riddled with fills. It smoked great but just looked awful in my opinion. I wanted to show pictures of both a previously carved finish and one with fills to show what I see as an improvement in both of these pipes after rustication. Each one has a slightly different rustication pattern to it as I was trying to achieve something different in each case. The pictures that follow will give you an idea of how the process works from start to finish. I conclude the essay with two added pipes that I rusticated to give a broad sampling of the finished look of my rustication method.


To begin the process I want to work with clean pipes that do not have any finish on them other than the stain. I put the bowls in an alcohol bath for an hour to remove all the waxes, finishes and grime that is on the outside of the bowl. I also ream and clean the pipe as I will handle it pretty roughly as I rusticate it. I don’t want added grime on my work table and hands so for me a clean pipe is what I like to work with. On the Canadian I removed the band and set it aside so that it would not be damaged in the rustication process.


For the purpose of this essay I will begin with the Dr. Plumb apple. I worked the rustication tool into the wood, twisting it back and forth until it had the rough look to it as can be seen below in the picture on the left. Once that was done I gave it a coat of black aniline stain. I find that the stain facilitates seeing any part of the wood that still needed to be worked or showed a pattern that was to uniform. I reworked the rustication with the larger tool to get it a bit more rough and random looking. Once I had the rustication the way I wanted it I stained the pipe a second time using a medium brown stain. This was to be the finish coat. I stained it, flamed it to set the stain, restained and set it a second time. The result was the matte finish pictured below on the right. In the light it showed some depth and variation in colour coming through from the earlier black stain that I put on after the first rustication. The third picture from taken from above shows the finished rustication before I buffed the stem and gave the entire pipe a light buff with white diamond.



The next step is to take the pipe to my buffer. I buffed the stem with red Tripoli and then white diamond. I buffed the bowl with white diamond to knock off some of the rough edges and to soften the edges of the rustication a bit and polish the smooth areas to highlight them. From pictures below the effect of the buff can be seen. It helps to differentiate the smooth areas from the rusticated ones and give a nice contrast to the finished look. The smooth areas have been polished and have a sheen. The rough areas have a softer glow that highlights the depth of the rustication and the pebbled finish of the pipe. The tactile surface of the “new” pipe is pleasant to the hand. It also has a better look than the pipe that existed before with the carved finish.



I have included the remaining pictures to show several other pipes that I have rusticated. These will give you an idea of the variety of finishes that can be achieved with the tools. It also shows a unique texture finish that I have developed that I like and repeat. The key here is to work the process repeatedly to develop your own distinctive look and feel. Rustication is an individual process as can be seen by the wide variety in rusticated pipes seen on the market. I continue to develop my method and try different patterns and also try to repeat the ones I like.

The first set of pictures show the finished Canadian that was pictured above before rustication. I used only the larger tool on this pipe. When I had finished rusticating it to my satisfaction I used a brass whitewall brush to smooth out the rustication. I took it to the buffer and used white diamond to soften and flatten out the roughness. I wanted to have a different look with this pipe which explains the process variations. I stained it with a medium brown aniline stain and was aiming for the look of old leather. The flaws and fills on this old Canadian are now hidden and a pipe that is much more pleasing to the eye is the result.

ImageImageImage Image


The second pipe is a John Bessai bent apple. I cannot find the pictures of the pipe before rustication but I remember it well. It had many fills and flaws in the wood and was a light tan colour. The pink putty fills stood out against this nice tan backdrop. They made me always bypass this pipe in my rotation. It smoked well but it was just ugly. I would pick it up and then put it down and take another one in hand. I was going to sell it but thought I would rusticate the bowl and see what it would look like. Again I was going for a leathery look. I used only the larger tool on this one as well. Once I finished the rustication I again used the brass whitewall brush to soften the rustication and buffed it with white diamond. The final rustication before staining looked much as it does in the finished pipe. The colour of the pipe is achieved by a combination of an oxblood undercoat stain and then a buff followed by a medium brown topcoat. I left the shank smooth with the stampings still visible. To me the much improved look draws me to it and the tactile nature of the pipe in hand is a bonus. As it heats up the feel is very pleasant.    


The final pipe pictured below is one I carved. It was a kit I picked up from eBay. It was a small block and stem stamped Caveman pipes. I carved the shape I saw in the block. As I did, the flaws and sand pits became visible. It became clear that once more rustication was the solution yet again. I used the larger tool followed by the brass whitewall brush to soften the rustication and give the pipe my favourite old leather look. The first two pictures below show the unstained pipe after rustication. Note that I wrapped the shank with electrical tape at the stem/shank junction to protect the stem and to give a band of smooth briar. The third two pictures show the pipe after the undercoat of black stain. The final colour (seen in the last two pictures) was achieved by a combination of a black undercoat of aniline stain and a top coat of medium brown. I buffed between coats of stain. All of the above pipes were then polished with Halcyon wax and buffed with a flannel buff.




The above process is demonstrated in the four pipes pictured. It is very simple. I stained each of the pipes before I rusticated them so that I could easily see where I was working. I used the larger rustication tool on all of the pipes. For the first one I used the second tool to change the rustication and then applied stain. In the last three I used a brass whitewall brush to soften the rustication and give it a leathery texture. Once I got the desire rustication I stained the pipe again for the finished colouring. The first was merely buffed with a soft touch on a white diamond buff. The remaining three were polished by hand with Halcyon wax and then buffed with a flannel buff to give it a polished look.

Give the process a try and see what you can come up with. It is a creative outlet and a means of exercising some creativity. Let us know what the finished product looks like.