Tag Archives: rustication

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.

Reviving an Unknown Pipe – Bill Tonge

It is a pleasure to post this second blog piece by Bill Tonge. In this particular refurb what makes it of interest to me is that it was a pipe that I sent him. I figured it might be a good project for him to play around with. It had solid bones and a new stem that I had fit to the shank. There were definitely some issues with the pipe but I figured Bill would come up with something creative. And he certainly did. This reworking of a pipe epitomizes what I quoted Bill as saying in his first post. I am quoting it again here as it is very apropos to his old pipe: “As a person that is economically challenged, I enjoy fixing up the ugly ducklings. I take pride in taking that $5.00 pipe that no one else wants and converting it to something that fits beautifully in a pipe collection.” Here is Bill’s article on reviving or reimagining an old pipe. I think that he has indeed taken an ugly duckling and created something to be proud of. Thanks so much Bill, for sharing your work with us yet again.

I received this pipe in the mail from Steve. He thought it was an interesting project. He had turned a new stem as well as cleaned the bowl and shank.

This pipe had quite a rough texture on the outside, some very deep crevices, as well as what turned out to be a crack about a quarter of the way down the bowl.




So I decided to sand this pipe down as smooth as it would go and then fill the crevices. After sanding it I filled the crevices with a Gorilla Glue & wood dust mixture. After it set up I sanded down the creviced area and applied the rustication. I then proceeded to sand the whole pipe down in stages starting at 100 grit and finishing with 1000 grit. Then I put the micro mesh pads to it and finished up with a wax and buff again only using a Dremel to apply the wax.




I have to say that I like the way this pipe turned out and that the other small blemishes add character to this pipe. I also like the grain on the bottom of the pipe. For anyone that is interested I do not own any dyes but rather use either a Sharpie marker or food colouring to colour my rusticated areas.

Thanks to Steve for the interesting pipe.

One Man’s Trash….. by John Williams (Coastie)

I have been reading about John’s work of rustication and restoration on pipe forums online for some time now. Recently he came to Pipe Smokers Unlimited and began to post some of his work there. I was taken by the beauty of his restorations and his rustication. He does great work. I decided to write him a note and ask if he would like to share some of his work with us on rebornpipes. What appears below is a piece John has written about his love of the hobby and his methodology for gathering pipes to work on. I thought that a before and after photo of one of John’s rustications would give an idea regarding the caliber of his work.

Before rustication

Before rustication

The process of rustication.

The process of rustication.

The finished pipe.

The finished pipe.

Welcome to rebornpipes, John it is a pleasure to be able to feature some of your writing and your work. Thank you for taking the time to send this to me.

Before I begin this let me tell you a little about myself, as it relates to the wonderful world of piping. After 40 years of smoking cigarettes, 20 of which were spent trying to find ways to quit smoking cigarettes, with no success, I stumbled into the wonderful world of pipe smoking. I had tried a pipe when I was in my 20’s and just didn’t find it satisfying or convenient. I decided to try it again, at the age of 58 so went to a local tobacco shop, picked up a basket pipe for $20.00, some Sir Walter Raleigh, and never picked up a cigarette again. I was smitten by the entire experience and quickly found myself lusting for more and more pipes.

After shopping on line and major on-line B&Ms I quickly realized that this new found love could get expensive, very quickly. So I turned to eBay, and starting amassing a pretty good size collection, but they were mostly oddball pipes that just caught my fancy and really were not enjoyable smokes. I started looking at higher end pipes on eBay and realized that again, this was going to get expensive. But I had this fascination with collecting pipes, and lacked the resources or desire to spend huge amounts of money. I had been cruising the net and stumbled upon Reborn Pipes and reading about Steve’s work breathing new life into old pipes. So I dove in and bought the few materials that I would need and started using my eBay acquisitions as practice material. In the process I found a new love, pipe restoration and rustification. It has been a fun journey since, and through the help of friends from forums I acquired more and more briar to work on, both mine and theirs, and just kept trying new techniques. There were highs and lows, and thankfully the lows were on my own pipes, and the highs were from seeing the reaction from pipe owners to my work on their pipes.

But alas, things took a turn. Suddenly this hobby of piping has gotten popular again, and with popularity came the inevitable increase in the cost of pipes on eBay. No more could I bid on nicely taken care of, quality briar, and win multiples to feed my new hobby, so activity on the workbench slowed down. Then one day I saw a beat up old pipe on eBay that was ugly, not taken care of, never cleaned, and appeared to have been used as a hammer or golf tee at one time. But it was cheap, no one wanted it due to the condition, and I won it for cheap, cheap. Before that day I would have never looked twice at this monstrosity. I would have immediately dismissed it, as I am sure many did.

Once I got it in the mail I applied the few skills I had learned about pipe rustification and produced a pipe that is now beautiful and serves me well, and will for years. I still buy a lot of pipes on eBay, but I now look for those pipes that appear to be structurally sound, but do not care about their cosmetic appearance. I learned to look past the ugly and envision what it could be with some work. And through this process I have continued to develop my hobby and abilities. I am always looking for new techniques, developing my own, and constantly striving to expand my abilities. And I am still managing to do it for less than I was spending on cigarettes when I was a cig smoker. That makes the wife happy, and therefore I am happy.

So what’s my point? If you are new to the world of pipes, or you wish you could expand your current collection, but just do not have the disposable income to buy those beautiful pipes that you often see, don’t fret, you can still have them. Simply lower your standards when shopping on eBay or in junktique stores. Learn to recognize those pipes that have beauty buried underneath neglect and abuse. Recognize those pipes that fall under “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. They are abundant on eBay and in junktique/antique stores, if you look. I will say however that you need to do some research. Teach yourself what is a desirable make, what is not; what is a good smoker, what may not be. Learn what to watch out for, what to avoid. I never buy pipes on eBay that only have one picture. I want to see both sides, the bowl, inside and the bottom, and the stem and tenon. Learn to recognize burn out, cracks in the shank or bowl, or other stem or briar damage that may be beyond your abilities to fix. If it is just ugly, dirty, dinged up, etc., and it catches your fancy….buy it and bring it back to beauty yourself. We are lucky enough that we have the internet and therefore a world of resources available to us as we develop our hobbies. Dive in my friend, dive in.

Join a forum, or multiple forums. There is a world of experience on those forums just waiting for your question or your plea for help. I have yet to encounter a pipe enthusiast on a forum who would not offer advice or help. There are a lot of us there whose passion is the restoration and/or rustification of pipes. Seek us out. And if you get a pipe that you feel is just beyond your ability to restore, many of us will gladly take care of it for you. I know I would, as working with briar is my passion. All you have to do is ask.

One other shopping technique that I use. I always have a pipe with me. Anytime I am talking with a stranger, outside, at a business, a yard sale, in the park, etc., I pull out the pipe and light it. More times than not it sparks a conversation, and many times you find that you are talking to a gentleman who will say “I used to smoke a pipe…..” but for one reason or another they quit. I will always follow up with “What did you do with your pipes?”, and a lot of times they will reply that they are in a box in the garage. You know where I go from there. I will just say that I have over the span of 1 year been gifted over 30 pipes from ex-pipers as a result of these conversations. Some pipes were beyond help, others were beautiful, and some just needed my attention. Ex-pipers are happy to give them to a fellow piper; you just have to let people know you smoke a pipe. It’s a brotherhood after all.

So happy hunting, happy cleaning/restoring, and happy piping. Now I am going to go hunt for old soldiers on eBay that need some attention.

A Review – The Masika made by JSEC Pipes

James Gilliam from JESC Pipes http://www.jsecpipes.com/sold-pipes.html and I had been emailing back and forth regarding a refurb he was doing. We talked about different processes and he wrote a piece for the blog on a pipe maker’s look at refurbishing. In the process he showed some pictures of a nice little bamboo shanked pipe that he had made for himself. I really liked the looks of it and commented that should he make another I would be interested. Not long after that I received an email from James about a little bamboo pipe he was carving that would be rusticated. He sent me some pictures of the shape and later of the unstained bowl. Once it was done he sent some pictures and a simple note saying, “It is yours if you want it but there is no obligation.” When I saw the finished pipe it called my name and I sent James the payment via Paypal and the deal was completed. He named it Masika and the picture below gives its vitals.


In this review I want to look at the pipe from a more technical side and walk through its construction, feel and delivery of the smoke to me. I drew the pipe from the brown cloth pipe sock and here is what I found. Once it was in my hand I have to say that honestly I was not prepared for what awaited me when I opened the package. I had read the dimensions and saw the pictures but somehow they did not capture the beauty and patina of this pipe. The bamboo has a patina to it that makes the pipe look far older than it is. It is a darker brown tone that I have found only on older bamboo pipes. I don’t know how James accomplished the patina but it is virtually the same colour as some of my older Yello Bole Bamboos and Kaywoodie Mandarins that are over 50 years old. It was very lightweight. Somehow in my head I had not captured what 20 grams felt like very well. This thing is virtually weightless.

Looking at the externals of the pipe. James seems to have used several stains to give an undercoat that shows through the top coat and a contrasting top coat as well. Depending on the light and angle of the pipe the colour highlights look different. They are a variety of browns and blacks that come through with the light and the angles. The rustication is well done and tactile but not rustic or rough. The best descriptor I can use in speaking of it is to describe it as refined. The band of smooth around the shank ahead of the black band and bamboo and the smooth rim are a great contrast to the rustication and the stain variations on the bowl and shank. I have already spoken of the bamboo and its attraction for me. There is a twist and bend in the bamboo that gives it a feel of struggle and pulling back. I like the look of the twist and turn of the bamboo as it gives a character to the shank that a straight piece would not give in the same manner. The black band between the briar and the bamboo makes a great transition from the pipe to the shank. James also used a small band of black before the stem as well. The two bands serve to set off and bookend the bamboo shank of the pipe. The hand cut ebonite stem is very well done and comfortable in the mouth. It has a nicely shaped button that is sharply cut and catches well on the back of my teeth. The slot in the button is oval shaped and there is a smooth V slot that facilitates the movement of smoke across the mouth.


Moving from the externals of the pipe to the internal mechanics. James your workmanship on this pipe is stellar. The angle of the drilling is done in such a way that the bowl is of a uniform thickness throughout. The bowl bottom is relatively the same thickness as the walls of the pipe. The bowl is drilled at the same angle as the exterior of the pipe. The draught hole is precisely where it should be – centred at the back side bottom of the bowl. The bowl is coated with a neutral tasting bowl treatment. I don’t know the components but it did not add any flavour to the tobacco nor did it come off with the first smoke. I don’t usually like bowl coating but this one was not a problem to the smoke. I am confident that James is not covering flaws in the interior of the bowl. Holding light to the bowl revealed a clean and smooth airway with no impediments. Looking down the bamboo shank at the stem end it is clear that it is not lined with any material even in the mortise. I believe that James used a tenon to anchor the bowl shank and the bamboo but I am not clear as to the material. The tenon on the stem is crafted of stainless steel and is a good snug fit. The inside of the stem is also very smooth. There is no roughness or constriction where the stainless steel tenon ends and the stem material begins. This transition is smooth. The airway flattens out like a squeezed drinking straw so that the diameter does not change but is flattened and opened.


I have been smoking this pipe consistently since it arrived and it smokes very well. The bowl break in was quite easy from the first bowl. It smokes dry and clean with no moisture buildup or gurgle to the bowl. From the first I have been able to smoke it to a dry ash. With each smoke there is no damp dottle to deal with in the heel of the bowl. The draught on this pipe is very smooth – no whistling sound and no sense of having to suck or work to get the air to move through – it is effortless. It has been and will continue to be a pleasure to smoke, exactly what I look for in a pipe that keeps its place in my rotation.

I would highly recommend that you have a look at the pipes James sells. He is a pleasure to deal with and fine craftsman. I know others who have commissioned pipes from him and found the experience a pleasure. I cannot speak highly enough of the workmanship on this pipe and ease of the deal with James. Give him a call and order a pipe or at least check out the website that I noted above. Have a look at the beautiful work that he does.

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!






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!

The Resurrection of a Thomas Spanu Olive Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

I was gifted this old Thomas Spanu Bamboo shanked bent billiard made out of Olive wood. It was originally a beautiful pipe. The grain on the olive was very nice and the bamboo shank had a nice patina to it. The problem was that it was snapped at the shank bowl junction and the bamboo at the mouthpiece had a crack that was separating. I knew it was this way when my friend sent it to me. But I was not prepared for the mess that it truly was. What was a shame about it was that the pipe was barely smoked. The bottom of the bowl was still raw wood. I knew I had to give this a try.

I utilized the same procedure that Gan spelled out in his post here on the blog regarding the work on the Peterson. https://rebornpipes.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=3034&action=edit I used the same epoxy he recommended – a fast set epoxy – JB Kwik. It is extremely strong (though not as strong as regular Weld Bond), heat resistant to 500+ degrees F, impervious to moisture, and has a clamping time of only 3 minutes. I learned of this method from Gan early on when we were sharing tricks of refurbishing with each other. I mixed the two parts of the JB Kwik (epoxy/catalyst) and had plenty of working time to align the two pieces of the pipe stummel. I held them together tightly for three minutes and then released. The bond was good and though it shows because of the angles of the grain it is strong.

I then sanded bowl and the shank with 240 grit sandpaper to reduce the width of the glue. There was no way to hide the mark but I wanted to minimize it. I sanded until the line was thin and not overlapping on the surface of the olive wood. The picture below shows the bowl at that point in the process. I also used a small hacksaw to trim back the broken and cracked bamboo on the shank. I wanted to remove the entire cracked portion and then strengthen the remaining bamboo. To strengthen it I dripped superglue on the open end and then faced the new end on my sanding board to get a smooth flat surface for the stem.


After the preparation and repair was done I sanded the bowl with micromesh pads to remove all scratches and then buffed the shank and bowl with White Diamond to give it a final polish. I did some work on the stem (Lucite) to make the fit and transition more even. I sanded it and then polished it with micromesh and Tripoli and White Diamond to smooth it out.  I then gave the entire pipe several coats of carnauba wax which I buffed with a soft flannel buffing pad. It is not beautiful and the repair shows, but the pipe smokes very well

Image! Image ImageImage

September 2, 2012 – This evening I decided to try rusticating the shank as Gan recommended in one of the comments. I used the modified Philips screwdriver that I used for rustication. Once I had it rusticated I restained it with medium brown aniline stain. I stained the shank and then the bowl as well. I wiped down the bowl with a bit of acetone to lighten the bowl colouration. Here is the finished product. It worked well Gan. Thanks for the recommendation Gan. 
I reworked the stem on the pipe this afternoon to try and get a closer match to the bamboo shank. It is better but still far from perfect. IMG_8063 IMG_8064 IMG_8065

Some of the pipes I have carved over the years

I thought I would post some pictures of the pipes I have carved over the years. Some are better than others and many are no longer in my collection as I have given them to friends. I post them here on the blog to show some of the possibilities with finishes – smooth, rusticated and semi rusticated – and with various stains and also as naturals.

Pipe #1 (only in terms of pictures not in terms of creation). A quarter bent ball or apple with a chamfered rim. The stains include a black under stain and a medium brown over stain.ImageImage

Pipe #2 – A ¼ bent tadpole. This is a great smoker and very light weight. The stains are a contrast of reds and browns.


Pipe #3 – A saddle stem Dublin with a Medium Brown stain


Pipe #4 – a ¼ bent Tomato. This one is rusticated to look like old leather. The undercoat is black stain then it is buffed and given a top coat of Medium Brown stain.Image

Pipe #5 – A semi rusticated apple. The bottom of this pipe is plateau briar and the rustication carries that theme upward to mid bowl. The rustication has a black understain and a medium Brown top coat. The smooth portion is medium brown. Image

Pipe #6 – A Canadian with a leaf pattern carved over a flaw in the briar. The stain is a Medium Brown.Image

Pipe #7 –a bent Dublin. On this one I used a medium brown stain. I had Stephen Downie help me with the shank extension and work on this one. Image

Pipe #8 – Volcano shape with plateau on the bottom. This one has a black understain to highlight the beautiful grain and then a medium Brown overstain. The stem is a modified saddle.ImageImage

Pipe #9 – ¼ bent egg. This one is stained with a black understain and then a tan overstain. The grain is very interesting on it.Image

Pipe #10 is a natural Dublin with no stain. Many coats of carnauba wax were applied. The band is a brass pressure fitting that I shaped to give it character. Image

Pipe #11 is a poker with a mix of rustication and smooth. It was stained with a medium brown stain. And waxed with carnauba. Image

Pipe #12 is a fanciful freehand that I did to highlight the amazing grain that flows along the pattern. This one is also natural in terms of finish – no stains were used. Just wax.Image