Tag Archives: shaping a stem

Restoring a Nording “Pick Axe” Freehand Pipe

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I had just finished restoring a 1940s-1960s Kaywoodie Bent Billiard with a 4 holed stinger, also from my grandfather’s collection. I am always fascinated by “Free Hand” pipes. I feel these freehand shapes let the creativity and imaginations of a carver run riot without the bindings of the exacting demands of a classical shapes and finish.

Over a period of time, I have collected a number of freehand pipes during my not-so-long journey in to the pipe world and have realized that these freehand pipes invariably have a nice hand fit, sitting snugly in to the hands of the smoker with a nice heft to them. The most fascinating aspect of a freehand, I feel, is the carver’s desire to highlight the grains in the briar block and shape the pipe accordingly to highlight these grains.

I was fortunate to come across four estate freehand pipes, one Soren, one Ben Wade Spiral, one Nording #4 and one Nording Pick Axe shaped pipe. I discussed with my mentor and guide, Mr. Steve Laug, and after his approval on the aspects of collectability and the price point at which they were available, I purchased them about a year back!!!! Since then, these were waiting for me to work on and now that I feel slightly more confident in doing justice to these lovely pipes, I decided to work on them. The first of these pipes that is now on my work table is the Nording Pick Axe shaped freehand.

This beautiful pipe has the classical pick-axe shape with a plateau rim top. The stummel has a smooth surface with densely flame grains extending from the mid way on right side and extending mid way on left side while the remaining surface on the stummel has beautiful rustication. The smooth portions extend to the sides such that when held in the palm, all the fingers are holding the stummel along the smooth surface and one can admire the fine delicate rustications on the back while sipping your favorite tobacco. Blissful!!!!!!!!! Similarly, the top surface of the shank is rusticated extending half way through on either side while the bottom is smooth with straight grains extending from the tip of the axe towards the end of the shank.  The only stamping, “NORDING” in block capital letters, is seen on the smooth portion of the shank. The stamping is clear, crisp and easily readable. The fancy stem has a slight bent towards the lip and helps the pipe to balance straight on a table. There is the letter “N” in block capital letter, stamped on the top surface. But it is faint and hidden under the heavy oxidation.I searched the internet for detailed information on Nording pipes and this pipe shape in particular shape. Though I did not find anything particularly about this pipe, it was interesting to read how young Mr. Nording got in to the business of pipe making. It makes for a very interesting read. We must not forget to thank one Mr. Skovbo, who had a major contribution in introducing Mr. Nording in to this business!!!!!!  I have a couple of SON pipes in my grandfather’s collection which I will restore at a later date since I now know about the historical importance of these pipes!!!!!!!!!!! Here is the link for easy reference of those interested: https://pipedia.org/wiki/Nørding 

The stummel is covered in dust, oils and grime giving a dull and lackluster appearance to the bowl. The rustications on the back of the stummel are, likewise, filled with dust, dirt and grime. This will need to be thoroughly cleaned. On close scrutiny, I saw some minor superficial dents and dings on the smooth surface. Will I address it or keep it as it is as a characteristic feature of this pipe’s past life? Hell yes, I will address it!!!!! I want it to be as perfect as I can make it for its next innings with me!!!!!! The chamber is clean with a very uneven and thin layer of cake. The plateau rim top is covered with overflow of lava. The inner rim edge is crisp, even and intact. The chamber is odorless and dry to the touch. The inner wall condition of the chamber will be ascertained once the chamber has been completely reamed. However, I foresee no issues at all as the bowl feels solid to the touch.The fancy stem is heavily oxidized with tooth chatter and bite marks on both surfaces and some calcification can be seen towards the lip. There is a significant damage to the lip end in the form of a bite through hole on the upper surface and some deep bite marks on both upper and lower surface of the stem. The airway in the stem is slightly blocked. These issues will have to be addressed. On close observation, the upper surface of the stem bears the stamp “N” in block capital letter. However, this stamp is very faint and covered in thick layer of oxidation. I will attempt to restore and save this stamp.The shank, mortise and the airway is relatively clean and will only need to be sanitized.THE PROCESS
The first step that I usually follow is the reaming of the bowl. However, in this project, since the only significant damage appreciated is to the stem and would be a time consuming process to repair, I started this restoration by addressing the stem first by sanding the stem surface with a 220 grit sand paper followed by 1500 grit micromesh pad. This serves two purposes. Firstly, it evens out the surface for a fresh fill during stem repairs and secondly, I have experienced that any fill in a stem repair turns distinctly brown after micromesh sanding if the oxidation from the stem surface was not removed prior to the application of the fill. Once I was through with the sanding, I wiped the stem clean with cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This was followed by flaming both the surfaces of the stem with a Bic lighter, concentrating more around the hole on the upper surface and the deeper bite marks on the lower surface. This helps in raising all the tooth chatter and dents to the surface.I inserted a pipe cleaner coated with Vaseline in to the stem airway before applying the fill. This helps in preventing the fill from entering and blocking the airway. I prepared a mixture of superglue and activated charcoal and applied it as evenly as possible over the hole and deep bite marks and set it aside to cure for 48 hours since the climate here is very wet and humid. While the glue was curing, I worked on the stummel, reaming out the cake with a Kleen Reem reamer, followed by a pipe reaming knife that I had fabricated. I brought the cake down to the bare briar. To further remove any traces of old cake and smooth the inner walls of the chamber, I sanded the inner wall surface with a 220 grit sand paper. As observed during initial visual inspection, I had decided to remove all the dents and dings in the stummel. I cleaned the stummel with Murphy’s oil soap, paying special attention to the plateau rim which was scrubbed with 000 grade steel wool to remove all the overflow of lava. Thereafter I sanded the smooth surfaces of the bowl with a 220 grit sand paper. Once all the dings and dents were evened out and the surface made smooth, this was followed by micromesh polishing pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads. Again, I wiped the bowl with a moist cotton cloth after each pad. Thankfully there were no fills in the stummel. Once I was through with the wet sanding pads, I used the 3200 to 12000 grit pads to dry sand the stummel to a nice shine. I set the stummel aside to let it dry out naturally. I rubbed some “Before and After Restoration” balm deeply in to the stummel with my fingers. This balm helps in rejuvenating and protecting the briar wood. The immediate and incredible transformation that takes place is a worthy reward for all the efforts!!! The mixed grain can now be clearly appreciated. I let the balm be absorbed by the briar for about 15-20 minutes and then polished it with a soft cotton cloth. The bowl now looks fresh and attractive with the grains popping out any which way you look at the briar. Turning my attention to the stem, using a flat head needle file I sanded out all the fills to match the surface of the stem. I further matched the fills by sanding it with a 220 grit sand paper. I had to spot fill clear superglue into small fills which were exposed during the sanding and repeat the entire process twice. To finish the stem I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol after each pad and rubbed olive oil into the stem after every three pads. The stem looks crisp, shiny and like new. Having addressed the “appearance” aspects of this beauty, I turned my attention to the “performance” aspects to ensure that this beauty smokes as well as it looks. I thoroughly cleaned the shank internals using shank brush, pipe cleaners, qtips and isopropyl alcohol. The stem airway was cleaned using regular pipe cleaners and also bristled ones dipped in alcohol. The airway is now clean and the draw is full and open.To complete the restoration, I rubbed a minute quantity of PARAGON WAX on the smooth stummel and the stem and HALCYON WAX II on the rusticated surface. After a few seconds, using muscle power and a microfiber cloth, I polished the entire pipe to a lovely shine. The finished pipe is shown below. This one shall soon find a place in my rotation. Thank you for your valuable time spent in reading this chronicle of my journey.


Kathy’s Dad’s Pipes – Beautiful Grained Malaga Bent Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the work table is also from George Koch’s estate. It is a Malaga Semi Rusticated Bent Billiard. It has some great grain on the smooth portions and an interesting rustication pattern of spots around the bowl and shank. The rim top was beveled inward and looked very good.  The pipe was another one of many that came to my brother and me in several shipments of pipes from George’s daughter Kathy. When Jeff got each box the pipes were well wrapped and packed. Jeff unwrapped them and took the following photo to give an idea of the volume of the pipes that we purchased. The Malaga came in mixed in a box of pipes much like the one pictured below.In each of the previous blogs that I have written on the restoration of George’s pipes I have told his story. To me it is important to keep the story attached to the pipes that came from his collection. Each pipe I work on I remind myself of the man and in the work give a remembrance to the pipeman who owned these pipes. Having held a large number of his pipes in my hand and having a pretty good feel for the shapes, colour and stems that he liked, I can almost imagine George picking out each pipe in his collection at the Malaga shop in Michigan. He loved Malagas and the majority of his collection was Malaga pipes of various shapes, sizes and finishes. I am including Kathy’s brief bio of her father and a photo of her Dad enjoying his “Malagas”. Here is George’s bio written by his daughter.

Dad was born in 1926 and lived almost all his life in Springfield, Illinois. He was the youngest son of German immigrants and started grade school knowing no English. His father was a coal miner who died when Dad was about seven and his sixteen year old brother quit school to go to work to support the family. There was not much money, but that doesn’t ruin a good childhood, and dad had a good one, working many odd jobs, as a newspaper carrier, at a dairy, and at the newspaper printing press among others.

He learned to fly even before he got his automobile driver’s license and carried his love of flying with him through life, recertifying his license in retirement and getting his instrumental license in his seventies and flying until he was grounded by the FAA in his early eighties due to their strict health requirements. (He was never happy with them about that.) He was in the Army Air Corps during World War II, trained to be a bomber, but the war ended before he was sent overseas. He ended service with them as a photographer and then earned his engineering degree from University of Illinois. He worked for Allis Chalmers manufacturing in Springfield until the early sixties, when he took a job at Massey Ferguson in Detroit, Michigan.

We lived in Livonia, and that’s where his love for Malaga pipes began. After a few years he returned to Allis Chalmers and we moved back to Springfield. I remember that when we went back to Michigan to visit friends, Dad had to go to the Malaga store and acquire a few new pipes. Many a year I wrote to Malaga and they picked out a pipe for me to purchase that I could give Dad for a Christmas or birthday present. He was always pleased. His favorites were the straight stemmed medium sized bowl pipes, but he liked them all. 

He had some other pipes, but the Malagas were his favorites. I remember him smoking them sitting in his easy chair after work, with feet up on the ledge by the fire burning in the fireplace.  Growing up it was my job to clean them and he liked the inner bowl and stem coated with Watkins vanilla, leaving a little of that liquid in the bowl to soak in when I put them back on the rack. Dad quit smoking later in life and so they’ve sat on the racks for many years unattended, a part of his area by his easy chair and fireplace. Dad passed when he was 89 years old and it finally is time for the pipes to move on. I’m very happy they are being restored by you and your brother and hope they find homes who enjoy them as much as Dad did. Thank-you for your care and interest. — Kathy, the oldest daughter

Once again, I want to thank Kathy for providing this beautiful tribute to her Dad. Jeff and I appreciate your trust in allowing us to clean and restore these pipes. We are also trusting that those of you who are reading this might carry on the legacy of her Dad’s pipes as they will be added to the rebornpipes store once they are finished.

The next the pipe is a nicely shaped bent Billiard with a vulcanite stem. It has beautiful grain all around the bowl – birdseye on the sides of the bowl and cross grain on front and the back. The rusticated spots on the sides of the bowl and shank are black and have a tight rustication pattern. The rim top is beveled inward and has rich cross grain in the briar.  The reddish brown stain really looks good with the black spots around the bowl. There was a light cake in the bowl and some lava on the beveled rim top. The stamping on the top side of the shank read MALAGA with a line under it. The black vulcanite stem was deeply oxidized but here were no tooth dents and chatter on the top and the underside near the button. Jeff took these photos before he started the cleanup work on the pipe. Jeff took some photos of the bowl sides and rim to show the condition of the pipe and finish. The bowl really was in good condition other than general dirtiness.The rim top shows some lava build up on the rim toward the front of the bowl. The inside of the bowl has a light cake and shreds of tobacco on the walls of the bowl. The inside of the bowl was dirty.The left side of the shank is clearly stamped with an underlined MALAGA.The stem was oxidized, had some paint spots on it and tooth chatter and worn edges on the button. There were no deep spots so it was clean other thank oxidized. Jeff has picked up quite pipes of this brand over the past year along with the ones from Kathy’s Dad’s estate. All of the pipes were made by the Malaga Pipe Shop in Royal Oak, Michigan in the USA. The more I work on the brand the more I am impressed by the quality of the craftsmanship and beauty of the pipes that came from the shop. I have written an earlier blog to give a little history of the Malaga Brand if you are interested: https://rebornpipes.com/tag/malaga-pipes/. That blog also includes links to a catalogue and the history of the pipemaker George Khoubesser). Follow the link to get a feel for the brand and the pipemaker.

Jeff had reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and followed up with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife to remove the cake. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior of the bowl, rim, shank and stem with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the oils and tars on the rim and the grime on the finish of the bowl. He rinsed it under running water. He dried it off with a soft cloth. The rim was thoroughly cleaned and looked virtually undamaged. Without the grime the finish looked really good. The bowl looked very clean and also was unchecked or damaged. The tapered vulcanite stem would need to be worked on but I really like the profile it cast. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it.  I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim top along with both sides of the stem to show the condition of the pipe after Jeff cleaned it up.I removed the stem and put it, along with two other stems to soak in a Before & After Deoxidizer bath. I left them in the bath for about 4 hours to soak and break through the oxidation. I took the stems out of the bath and rinsed them under running water and scrubbed them dry with a coarse piece of cloth. I took photos of the three stems before I continued my work. There was some residual oxidation on the stem surface so I sanded it out with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked on it until all the oxidation and the light tooth chatter was removed.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil. I set the stem aside to dry. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface and the rusticated patches on the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. I polished stem and the bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The grain really came alive in both the rusticated portions and the smooth panels with the buffing and works well with the polished black vulcanite stem. Together the pipe looks much better than when I began and has a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 5 ¼ inches, Height: 2 1/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. I will be putting this newly finished Malaga pipe on the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your collection and carrying on the trust. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another one of Kathy’s Dad’s Pipes.

A Hardcastle Bulldog Run Roughshod over: The Original Restoration

Blog by Robert M. Boughton

Copyright © Reborn Pipes and the Author except as cited

Grace is neither gentleness nor fragility.  Grace is treating yourself, others and even inanimate objects with respect.
— Kamand Kojouri, Iranian-born novelist and poet

A former roommate, one of Stephen King’s Constant Readers, once remarked with ridicule-tainted respect that I have always been attracted to needful things.  He was speaking of someone I met not long before then whose tragic life had left him wounded to the core, one of the results being his over-demanding, often verbally corrosive and manipulative treatment of me.  The roommate, who like almost everyone had plenty of his own flaws if less obvious and abusive, said my other acquaintance was no friend of mine.

“That may be true,” I replied, “but I’m his friend and the only one he seems to have, and I just can’t give up on him because that’s not what friends do.”

The physically and emotionally damaged person I undertook to help ended up becoming and remaining my genuine though stormy friend until he died at home 14 years later from an unusual and excruciating autoimmune disorder for which there is no cure.  He was 46.

My affinity for care-challenged pipes, therefore, should come as no surprise.  I try to avoid those with fatal flaws such as bad cracks or burnouts and for the most part reject any with serious holes in the stem, but as a restorer I prefer estate pipes that need some real attention to rehabilitate as opposed to the few I find ready to sell or to keep in my collection with minimal effort on my part.

I don’t even remember how the Hardcastle Special Selection #7 smooth bulldog came into my custody or why I chose to ignore the obvious void of vulcanite below the lip on the underside of the stem.  Other than that handicap, the pipe was nowhere near as mistreated as I’ve seen but was plagued enough by dings, scratches and other problems to keep me happy.

One final initial note: I repaired this bulldog to almost like-new condition more than a year ago but failed to blog it because of personal distractions that have left me with a large backlog.  I sold it for next to nothing to one of my present housemates who decided he wanted me to refinish it as a black dress pipe.  The same pipe is the subject of Part 2 of my series on that subject, and so I was going to include this original restoration in that blog.  But anyone who reads my harrowing account of the experience that could be called too much of a bad thing will understand why I broke the overall work into two blogs.

Intrigued by the atypical presence of a stinger in the Hardcastle, and an unusual one at that, I searched online for such phenomena with a faint hope of dating the bulldog.  Of course, at the top of the list was one of Steve’s blogs from 2014.  No other road I found led anywhere close to Rome, as it were.  Steve’s pipe is a Dental Briar brandy, bearing the Registered Design Number 857327, with a unique – or bizarre – dental stem, a system-type metal rod in the shank extending to the mortise hole, and a different short stubby little stinger of its own.  Here is the Dental Briar stinger before Steve’s restoration and the pipe after his usual fantastic work.Steve narrowed the date of manufacture to the Family Era and concluded his pipe was created from 1949-1967 using the National Registry link below.  However, looking at the same link, I see in Table 6.5 that designs numbered 548920-861679 were registered between 1909 and 1950 and suspect the 857327 might have been pre-1949 – no disrespect intended to the master!  Besides, he’s right to note that his Dental Briar could have been made at any time between its registration and 1967 when the family lost all control of the brand.  His pipe is also stamped MADE IN LONDON ENGLAND on the right shank.

I am not so fortunate.  The bulldog has no Registered Design Number or even the usual right shank nomenclature (London Made, British Made, Made in London England, Made in England).  This nomenclature is not faded, it’s just not there.  Only the left shank identifies it as a HARDCASTLE/SPECIAL SELECTION/7.  All I know for sure is that I tried it out after a basic sanitization, and it was quite good.

For a great synopsis of Hardcastle’s history, see Steve’s blog below.  Details are in the Pipedia link.

RESTORATION I would have removed the stinger anyway as useless, but it was also bent and more fragile than usual, and so I experienced even less than usual emotional distress heating the pointless thing with a Bic and twisting it out.Considering the appreciable grime, I started by swabbing the stummel first with purified water and then alcohol.  In hindsight, I should have skipped the water method that had little effect.  The blemishes stand out even more after the cleansing with alcohol.  The one shot below showing the minor rim damage, an unevenness being the only bad part, and decent chamber condition was taken with a flash and therefore looks pre-water and -alcohol cleaning.  I’m still having to do the best I can with a cell phone cam.  I used 150-, 220-, 320- and 400-grit papers to start shaping up those areas.After that I re-addressed the chamber and unevenness of the rim with a Senior Reamer and the blade from my Peterson’s Pipe Tool and made them a little better with 150-400-grit paper.I gave the shank a preliminary alcohol cleaning and retorted the pipe with a meerschaum stem that wasn’t crippled by a hole but somehow forgot to snap a pic of the latter.With 220- and 320-grit papers I was able to remove the dings and scratches as well as giving the chamber a semi-final what-fer.For some reason, the band popped off, and I still wasn’t happy with the color.  I decided to go at it once more with the 220.A full micro mesh buff made the old pipe begin to shine as it should.By now I should be somewhat known for fancying two-tones with bulldogs and Rhodesians where the top of the bowl above the two lines curves upward to the rim.  For the most part, at least, I’ve left this area lighter than the rest of the stummel, although on occasion I’ve dabbled in darkening it with, say, maroon stain.  This one screamed at me to lighten the top of the bowl as usual under these circumstances.  And so I stained the stummel below the lines with Lincoln brown leather dye, flamed it and after letting it cool took off the char and a little of the darker color with 8000 and 12000 micro mesh pads.  By the way, I was alarmed when I got a look at the first pic below and noticed what to every appearance seems to be a wicked and poorly repaired crack in the shank.  I assure everyone it’s a trick of the light or whatever, as the other pics prove. Gluing the band on again was a formality after buffing it on the electric wheel.Okeydokey, then.  There could be no more avoiding the chomped and degraded stem with its hole on the underside and other shortcomings. I had already given it an OxiClean soak, and it wanted repair.  Just to get an idea of what the stem would look like when finished, I gave it a quickie micro mesh rub.   I cut a little strip of card stock from the business leftover of someone with whom I didn’t care to do any more business and lubed it and a very small tweezers with a dab of petroleum jelly.  I inserted both into the mouth opening of the stem, with the cleaner behind the paper, until they were firmly in place inside the airway to a point just below the hole.  Finding my trusty old vulcanite stem that was long ago destroyed by another stem abuser, I shaved some fine flakes onto a small piece of paper with one side of a narrow, relatively smooth triangle rasp.

This was where I had to be prepared to act fast: I moved the flakes into a pile and added a few drops of black Super Glue, stirred the two into a gritty paste and scooped up a gob with the part of a three-piece pipe tool made for clearing tobacco from the chamber.  As fast as possible without making a mess, I slapped the goop liberally over the hole and set it aside to dry, removing the card stock and tweezers when the vulcanite mixture was dry on the inside but still a little wet on the outside.It’s a good thing I have an excellent recall of what I did in a particular restoration because the photographs I took of this project were more jumbled and duplicated than those from any other pipe on which I’ve worked.  I had so many of the same thing from alternate angles and differing clarity, for example, that I had to delete quite a few to make sense of it.  I concluded this was because of two things, trying different ways to get a good shot with my poor cell phone camera at the time and lack of sleep during the process.  It’s clear, excuse the pun, that some of the “best” are quite indistinct.  The following photos, as a result, are incomplete, but I always have the words to describe what I did.

For example, after the previous step, I started sanding with 150-grit paper and then smoothed it up with 220-, 320- and 400.  A common, less serious groove resulted, and I added more of the black Super Glue/vulcanite mix and let it dry again.  The mixture settled in well.That’s when I got serious with the sanding, using 150-, 220-, 320- and 400-grit paper and super fine “0000” steel wool.There’s still a small lump visible under the lip that I handled with as little abrasion as possible before the stem was done.  And that was it – for the bottom side.  I still had the top to do.  In every way other than the hole in the bottom, the top was worse, although it only needed a dab of black Super Glue/vulcanite solution to fill a small divot following the same initial OxiClean soak and a more vigorous sanding before filling a small divot with.  Considering again the top of the stem when I received it, close up, notice the wear below the square shank fitting before the rest of the work. The stem never quite fit the shank, which had been given a replacement band somewhere along the way, not to mention the band was damaged. After beginning to re-sand the bottom of the stem, the original hole caved in again.  Accepting defeat, I chose a new bulldog stem I had that needed serious filing at first and then sanding of the 9mm tenon to fit the shank. I bent the stem.  That required heating the stem – with a pipe cleaner inserted through the airhole – at 210° F. for about 15 minutes and bending the nice and pliant material over a complex tool.

Remembering the cell phone photos were atrocious and I had to edit them using every halfway adequate means of adjustment available with my so-called photo editor to show any similarity whatsoever to the actual result, here one last time is the stummel as it in fact looked when it was one step from completion before electric buffing.And these are the final photos of the pipe.  The most offensive discrepancies to me are the obscurity of the two-tone and the lack of shine the pipe had.  The bad twist on the stem in the fifth shot of the rear is all on me!

This blog being the occasion of my official announcement in this forum of my new webstore on  my own site, https://www.roadrunnerpipes2k.com/, is unfortunate in that the depictive presentation almost convinced me to give up any idea of writing the blog.  The poor quality and lack of photographs, as well as other stated reasons, were overwhelmingly opposed to the idea of even trying.  Then I thought of the work I put into the briar and the stem alone. In the end, I know how smooth, golden brown and at least hardly blemished the Hardcastle bulldog looked when I was done with it.  Whether anyone else does is of no importance to me.


Restoring my Grandfather’s…what the…A Kaywoodie?????

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

Yes!! That is what exactly my thought was, when I looked closely at the small pipe in my hand that I had selected as my next project for restoration. Those who have read my previous write ups on pipe restoration would know that I have inherited a large number of pipes from my grandfather dating between the periods from 1940s to 1970s. I had not come across a single Kaywoodie pipe in the two boxes I had opened, one box still remaining unopened!!!

I have restored two Custom-Bilt pipes from this collection to date, one from 1938-41 era (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/06/02/restoring-my-grandfathers-custom-bilt-pipe/) and second from the Wally Frank era(https://rebornpipes.com/2018/07/20/restoring-a-wally-frank-era-custombilt-sitter-633/), the third Custom-Bilt billiard from 1938-41 era was sent to Mr. Steve of rebornpipes fame to sort out tenon issues and have fallen in love with Custom-Bilt pipes since thereafter!!!! I had picked this pipe assuming it to be a Custom-Bilt and it was only on close scrutiny was it reveled that this was a Kaywoodie!!!!! I deliberately rummaged through the pile again and sure enough, there was another Kaywoodie Bent Billiard with 4 holed stinger in relatively unsmoked condition. It seems my grandfather never took a liking for these Kaywoodie pipes!!!!!

This Kaywoodie Pocket Pipe, now on my work table, has similar large finger like vertical rustications with very thin horizontal lines ensconced within these large vertical rustications. These thick vertical rustications extend upwards and end short of the rim top, giving the rim top a flat smooth surface. These rustications can be seen extending all around the shank on top and bottom, save for smooth surfaces on either sides of the shank. The smooth surface on the left side of the shank bears the stamping “Handmade” over “Super Grain” in cursive hand, over “KAYWOODIE” in block capital letters. The right side of the shank bears the stamp “IMPORTED BRIAR”. All these stampings are thin, worn out but readable under bright light with a magnifying glass. The ¾ bent saddle stem bears the trade mark “Clover leaf” symbol.This pipe comes with a four-holed threaded stinger which screws into the shank. This stinger is stamped with “DRINKLESS”. There is an aluminum spacer ring separating the shank end from the stem end when threaded in. On closer observation, it can be seen that a portion of this spacer, closer to the mortise opening, extends into the mortise and is threaded which matches with the stinger threads.I took all these observation and searched pipedia.com for history of this brand, models and attempt at dating this pipe. This site has detailed information on Kaywoodie pipes, including the history of origin, about the owners of the brand and also various important links to “Collector’s Guide to Kaywoodie Pipes” and “Kaywoodie’s Logos and Markings: Clover variations since 1919”. Here is what was revealed as extracted from pipedia.com:-

Kaywoodie was the name a pipe offered by Kaufman Brothers & Bondy Company (KBB), first appearing in February of 1919. The Dinwoodie pipe, also by KBB, appeared in November of 1919. Sometime before 1924, the Dinwoodie had been discontinued and the Kaywoodie name was beginning to be used on an extensive line of pipes that ultimately would be the name of the company. The origin of the name Kaywoodie is a combination of the K from Kaufman and wood, as in briar. Not much is known of the original KBB company other than it was started in 1851 by the German born Kaufman brothers when they opened a small pipe shop in the Bowery section of New York City. In the back room of this shop, they made their first pipes. From this meager beginning, the Kaywoodie name and organization was to emerge.

When one of the men from the New York office got “gold fever”, he carried a large supply of pipes with him to California that he sold along the way. This early “national distribution” did much to build the reputation of KBB. By the late 1800’s, branches of KBB were opened in Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco and St. Louis with family and friends acting as agents. The trademarks, for the inlaid cloverleaf and the cloverleaf with the KBB initials inside, were issued in 1881. KBB’s pipes became more popular and were in constant demand by the end of the century. Orders were streaming back east and KBB needed to move to larger manufacturing facilities. By 1915 the move was made to larger facilities in the old Union Hill section of Union City, New Jersey. The salesroom offices were located at 33 East 17th. Street, New York. When the Kaywoodie pipe was first introduced by KBB it came with a hand cut rubber mouthpiece fitted with an aluminum Inbore Tube. This device was to “assure a clean, cool smoke.” Other KBB pipes such as Ambassador, Heatherby and Melrose also had the Inbore tube. The early Drinkless Kaywoodies from 1924 through 1931 had push bit stems. In 1931, after three years of research, the new Drinkless Kaywoodies with the synchro-stem, (threaded drinkless screw-in mouthpiece) were introduced. The drinkless attachment was advertised as cooling the smoke from 850 degrees in the bowl to 82 degrees when it entered the mouth. By the mid 1930’s, all Kaywoodie’s came with the screw mounted Drinkless attachment. (Export Kaywoodies, available briefly from 1950-1955, had push bit stems and were available in all the same shapes and finishes as the drinkless versions.)

Throughout much of the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s, the Kaywoodie family of pipes consisted of 11 basic grades of briar pipes; though new grades were frequently added to the line and some older grades were discontinued or downgraded. These 11 basic grades of pipes, listed in ascending order of quality, were:

  1. Drinkless
  2. Hand-made Super Grain
  3. Super Grain
  4. Relief Grain
  5. Flame Grain
  6. Silhouette
  7. Oversize Kaywoodies
  8. Meerschaum Inlaid Kaywoodies
  9. Connoisseur
  10. Ninety-fiver
  11. Centennial

Thus from the above, I can safely infer that this pipe was a higher grade Kaywoodie from the 1940s to 1960s.

The finish looked a lot like the classic Kaywoodie take on Tracy Mincer’s Custom-Bilt pipes. The carved worm trails seen on the stummel and shank is filled with dust, dirt and grime of years of smoking and thereafter years of uncared for storage. The grime and dirt is so strongly entrenched in to these carved worm trails that it appears black and solidly smooth to the touch. I could see 3-4 small dings and dents on one of the fingers of the raised portion of the stummel. This will need to be addressed. There is a decent layer of cake inside the bowl which is dry and hard to the touch. The smooth rim top is clean and devoid of any apparent damage. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be ascertained after the cake has been reamed out. The inner edge of the rim shows minor uneven surface, however, the outer edge of the rim is clean and without dents or dings. The short ¾ bent saddle stem has smooth upper and lower surfaces without any tooth chatter or bite marks. This is unlike any other pipe stem I have seen that had belonged to my grand old man. The four holed stinger is clean, however, the holes appear to be clogged. This was confirmed as air did not flow when I tried to blow through the stem. May be that has been the reason that this pipe was not as extensively used by him. The inlaid white clover leaf is clean and prominent with a tiny portion of the top of the leaf missing!! But it is so tiny chip that it is not immediately visible. The lips are worn out and may need to be reconstructed; again I am not sure about this as there is no damage as such. There is an aluminum spacer between the stem and the shank which breaks the monotony of the pipe. However, it is broken on the right side leaving an ugly gap between the shank and stem. The remaining portion of the aluminum spacer was crumbling and breaks merely to the touch. This needs to be addressed. There is a circular band of white tape or some such material at the end of the stinger where it meets the stem. This is something which is not correct and the reason for it having been placed needs to be checked. THE PROCESS
First and foremost in any restoration of pipe, I start with reaming the chamber with a Kleen Reem pipe reamer. However, in this instance, the cake was dry, tightly packed and very hard. I feared breaking the reamer and resorted to the use of my fabricated knife. After a struggle, I was able to take the cake down to the bare briar. I sanded the inner walls of the chamber with 150, 220 and 600 grit sand paper to completely remove the remaining cake and smooth out the walls. Alas, I observed some superficial gouges on the wall surface due to the use of knife. I would need to address this by coating the chamber walls with pipe mud at a later stage. I cleaned the mortise and internals of the shank with cue tips, pipe cleaners and alcohol. Since the major challenge appreciated in this restoration project was the construction of a new aluminum spacer, I decided that is where I would start!!!! To address this issue, I identified three options, as under, which were available to me:

(a) Coat the entire spacer, including the broken portion, with superglue, building it up in layers and then sanding it to flatten it on a topping board. This coat of superglue will also stabilize the remaining original spacer.

(b) Fabricate an aluminum spacer out of a regular aluminum washer and replace only the broken portion of the spacer.

(c) Replace the entire spacer with the new fabricated aluminum spacer.

I discussed these options with my mentor, Mr. Steve Laug. As is his trademark style of tutoring, his suggestion was, “I would go with the first option”!!!!! He further clarified that the spacer also enters the mortise and has threads for the “synchro-stem” (threaded drinkless screw-in mouthpiece). Thus, I concluded that exercising the third option was best avoided if I wished to avoid ruining the pipe!!! That left me with following either first option or the second option. Any other sane student would have followed the advice of his mentor (which I had been doing up to this point!!!). However, I, for some reason, was convinced that the end result of exercising the second option would result in a better finish and thus embarked on the arduous journey of replacing only the broken portion of the original spacer with the fabricated aluminum washer.

I began the process by shaping the new aluminum washer to match the size, shape and thickness of the original spacer. I was not very meticulous about the size and thickness as the same would, in any case, have to be perfectly matched by sanding it down with needle files. The following pictures will tell the story of the entire process of constructing this spacer. However, what these pictures do not tell you is the long back breaking hours involved, the strain to which eyes were subjected, precise and controlled movements of the needle files and agony experienced whenever the needle file inadvertently scraped the crumbling original spacer, causing it to chip. When I was satisfied with the fit and finish of the new spacer, I applied an even coat of superglue over the entire surface and very painstakingly re-aligned all the broken pieces of the original spacer and also the new fabricated spacer over the coat of the superglue and set it aside to cure overnight. Next day I evenly applied another coat of superglue over the entire spacer and again set it aside to cure so as to stabilize the spacer repairs and even out the surface. Once the glue had sufficiently cured, I topped the surface on a topping board to even out the glue. To further smooth out the surface and ensure a transparent, even and smooth surface, I polished the surface with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I frequently wiped the surface with a moist cloth to remove the glue dust. I was able to maintain just sufficient thickness of the coat so as not to disturb the alignment of the stem with the shank while stabilizing and protecting the spacer. I was very satisfied with the results. Now with the spacer taken care of, I start working on the stummel. I thoroughly clean the stummel with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and a hard bristled tooth brush scrubbing the rustications clean of all the lodged dirt, dust and grime. I had seen a few dents and dings on one of the fingers of the stummel rustication and wanted to address it. I began by sanding the stummel and raised portion of the rustications with a 600 grit sand paper followed by 800 grit sand paper. I had used very light hand so as not to lose too much briar (though at the end I realized that I should have used a bit more force since at the end of the process, these dents and dings were still very much visible!!!!!!). This sanding was followed by polishing with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a moist cloth after each pad to remove all the sanding dust. As I was going through the micromesh pads, I was thinking of adding some twist to the finish and remembered that Mr. Dal Stanton, a gentleman I often turn to for some interesting pipe related conversations and advice, had refurbished a Tom Howard rusticated tomato pipe for me. He had darkened the crevices of the rustications with a dark stain pen and the contrast was eye catching, to say the least. I wanted to have a pair of pipes with this finish and decided to give this Kaywoodie the same treatment. I discussed with Mr. Dal Stanton who wholeheartedly explained the technique of achieving this finish and also gave me some very fine and pragmatic advice which I shall cherish on this journey. I stained the crevices in the rustications with a dark brown stain pen and set it aside for the stain to set in to the crevices. After the stain had set, I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After” restoration balm in to stummel and set it aside for a few minutes to let the balm work its magic on the briar wood. The balm works to bring back the shine and pours life in to the briar. I buff the stummel with a horse hair shoe brush followed by a nice hand polish with a soft cotton cloth. I liked the way the stummel has finished. To address the superficial gouges in the chamber created by use of knife during reaming, I prepared a mixture of pipe ash and yogurt of putty consistency and applied a coat to the inner walls of the chamber. Once the coating had cured, I gently sand the walls with a 220 grit sand paper to a smooth and even surface. With this, the stummel is all completed. Once the stummel had been finished and set aside, I turned my attention to the stem. There was not much work on this stem since it was sparingly used with only light signs of oxidation and no bite marks or tooth chatter. I start by sanding with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to remove the sand dust and rub a small quantity of Extra Virgin olive oil and allow it to be absorbed in to the stem. The stem is now nice and shiny. The next thing to address was the blocked stem. I tried cleaning the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol, but the pipe cleaner would not go in the complete distance. There was gunk and tars which had accumulated inside the airway and in the holes too!!!! Using a straightened paper clip, I probed and cleaned all the holes on the stinger. I tried to blow through the stem, but I realized that it was still blocked. I tried pushing the paper clip through the airway and then there was this small sound of a crack!!!!!! Aargh……..the upper lip now has a chip!!!!! Undaunted by this temporary setback, I continue with the clearing of the blocked stem. Finally, I am able to dislodge the block and now the air flows freely through the stem.To address this chip, I firstly insert a regular pipe cleaner coated with Vaseline in to the air way. This prevents the charcoal and glue mix from dribbling in to the air way blocking it. I mix a small quantity of activated charcoal and CA superglue and spot apply it over the chipped surface. Once I have ensured that the complete surface is coated with the mix, I set it aside to cure overnight. The next evening, I file the filling with a needle file and match it to the surface of the stem. To further match the filling with the rest of the stem surface, I sand the fill with a 220 grit sand paper followed by micromesh polish pads. The stem is now nice and shiny again with a free flow of air through the airway. I finished this restoration by applying a small quantity of Halcyon II wax and rubbed it deeply in to the stummel with my fingers. A few minutes later, I polished it with a soft cotton cloth using muscle power. The stummel now has a nice deep shine to it and the grains on the rim top and raise portion of the rustication can be seen in its full glory. I re-attach the stem and then relies that the stem is off center to the shank!!!! My God, this one was giving me a hard time. I removed the white sticky tape that was stuck around the stinger at the stem end and tried the fit. The fit had improved but it was still off centre. Again, to address this issue, I was presented with two options of either sanding the coating of superglue over the spacer till the off center was corrected or heat the stinger till the glue fixing the stinger in the stem was loosened and turn the stinger in to the mortise till the issue was addressed. I decided to go with the second option as I feared losing the coating of superglue over the spacer and thus exposing the brittle original to further chipping. I heated the stinger with the flame of a Bic lighter so that the glue holding the stinger would loosen a bit and fitted the stem in to the mortise, tightening it till the stem and shank were perfectly aligned. I let the stinger sit in this position till it had cooled down and the glue had hardened again. Now the fit of the stem and the shank is perfectly aligned. Here are the pictures of the finished pipe and hope that this long write up has been an enjoyable read. Thank you for walking with me through this restoration as I attempt to preserve the legacy of my beloved grand old man!!!!!


Finishing the Restoration and Restemming a Custom-Bilt Billiard

Blog by Steve Laug

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever it takes to make a pipe usable – A Creative WWII Trench Repair

Blog by Steve Laug

I was on Facetime recently with Paresh and Abha in India, talking about pipe restoration and what they were currently working on together. Paresh showed me some of the pipes that they were working on as well as several that he wanted to send to me to work on. One of them was a pipe that had come to him from a family friend who told him it came from WW2 and had belonged to a German soldier. He was not sure what to do with this one and almost felt that it was not worth working on. A piece with that kind of story attached is always interesting to me and I wanted to see it and also work on restoring it. Paresh brought the metal box that the pipe came to him in and the assortment of pieces that made up the pipe to the table to show me what was there. It had what looked like two stem options with it. The one that looked right was a Perspex stem. He was able to remove the brass shank extension from the bowl while were talking and thought he had broken it. I did not think so but underneath the brass there was a broken shank. The brass had been slipped over the broken shank as an extension. The pieces could all be combined to make a functional pipe. I was excited to get this pipe and work on it. Here are some photos of the pipe box. It bears the initials CK and a raise pipe on the cover. When the box was opened the pipe parts were scattered in the larger compartment. There was a bent wire in the box as well. I have a theory how that was used and will talk about it shortly. It is obvious that the box was made to fit a pipe in the upper compartment and tobacco and lighting material in the lower portion. There is a fabric piece fixed to the lid that keeps the pipe from moving around the box.Paresh kept the box in India and mailed the pipe parts to me to see what I could do with them. It took a long time for the pipe to arrive in Vancouver from India. I would have forgotten about it if Paresh had not sent me WhatsApp messages to see if it had made it here. Finally there was a parcel notice hanging on my door when I came home from work. The postie had written that a package was at the post office and I could pick it up the next day after 1pm. I picked it up the next day after work and brought it home. I carefully unwrapped the plastic sleeve that enclosed the box. I cut the tape that held the box closed. Inside were the pipes that Paresh wanted me to work on. The “War” pipe was in a plastic bag and wrapped in bubble wrap. I carefully took it out of the wrappings and put it on the desk. I took the following photos to show the condition of all the parts before I started the cleanup and restoration.I examined the pieces carefully to see if I could come to any conclusions about the provenance of the pipe as it now stood. The bowl was in rough condition but I thought it could be cleaned up to at least carry on the trust of a pipeman from the past. The brass was very interesting and had been cut off on one end. Each end had a different diameter. One end was the size to fit on the broken shank and the other fit the wooden extension. The wooden extension appeared to be oak or a like hard wood. The inside appeared to have been burned and was darkened on each end. It had a copper ring around the end where the stem went. The ring had been hammered smooth and worked onto the shank end to keep it from splitting when the stem was inserted. The two stems were interesting. The white one looked like a cigarillo holder to me and probably was the first stem to be used on the pipe. It could possibly fit over the wooden extension prior to the addition of the copper ring. That leaves me to assume that the clear stem was a later addition and the ring was added to make sure that it did not split the wood when inserted. All parts were very dirty but I could see how they went together to make a smokeable pipe. We talked about the background of the pipe on Facetime and also on WhatsApp several other times and he told me the story that had been passed on to him by the friend of his family. I wrote to Paresh and asked if he could give me a summary about the pipe – write down some of what he had told me in our conversations. This is what he wrote to me.

This WWII pipe was handed over to me by one of my best buddies who has a family tradition of serving in the Army. This pipe once belonged to his eldest maternal Uncle who had participated in WW II as a Sepoy (an Indian soldier serving under British or other European orders) and later during the war rose to become a Junior Commissioned Officer. He had participated in the Operations in North Africa as part of a British Indian Division. It was during one of the battles at El Agheila during November – December 1941 that he had picked this up this pipe with its case from one of the overrun German trenches as a souvenir and had been with him since…. – Regards, Paresh

That was the information that I was looking for about this pipe. It is one thing to assume that the pipe was a War Memorabilia but another thing to get the history behind it. Thanks Paresh. Now I knew that I was dealing with a German soldier’s pipe and pipe case that had been left behind either when he was killed or when he abandoned German trenches in haste fleeing the British Indian Division. His friend’s uncle had picked up the case from the trench as a souvenir. It had remained in the family in the case in parts since that time.

This is where my imagination took over and tried to figure out how the pipe had come to its current state. I wonder what was in the mind of the pipeman who put the pieces together. So I took what I could see and imagined the following scenario from the parts.

Somewhere along the journey of the soldier CK and his pipe he had broken the shank on what must have been his only pipe. It was broken and either could be thrown away as garbage along the way or perhaps he could rebuild it. The broken shank was the impetus for repairing the pipe and the way it was done was highly creative.

The remnant of the shank was carefully modified with a knife judging from the way the broken shank end was carved. The pipe man had used his knife to create a ledge around the broken part where it connected to the bowl. A brass shell casing was cut and modified to fit on the shelf that had been carved thus repairing and lengthening the shank. The shell casing was pressed onto the carved shank until it was almost flush with the back side of the bowl. A piece of wood – branch or an oak stick was “drilled out” by heating the bent wire in the box until it was red hot and then inserting it repeatedly down the middle of the wood branch until there was an airway burned into the center. You can still see the burn marks on the inside.

The one end of the shank was drilled out and inserted into the small diameter end of the shell casing. The other end, the shank end of the piece of was carved out with a knife to receive a stem. There was a hammered copper ring that had been crafted and pressed onto the stem end of the shank. The box contained two different stems with the pipe. The first was a cigarette or cigarillo holder that could have been fit over the top of the dowel. Not very pretty and not very functional as it did not fit well. The second stem was a Perspex stem that was quite long. It obviously was the one used with the pipe as the airway was very dirty. There was also some internal burning in the stem itself that is odd. I wonder if the soldier who fashioned the pipe did not put a burning wire up the stem to open it as well and damage the internals of the stem.

I probably will never know the story behind the pipe for sure but what I have imagined is certainly a very real possibility. Whatever the story is the pipe is a fascinating piece of WWII memorabilia.

With the imagination satisfied and combined with the story that came with the pipe I examined the pipe parts to see what I was dealing with. It was obvious that the pipe was smoked a lot. It was probably the soldier’s only pipe and it rarely sat unlit by the looks of it. The bowl was thickly caked and damaged the externals were worn. It appeared that the pipe had been dropped a few times as there were deep gouges in the briar on the heel of the pipe. The finish on the briar was worn out and dark but underneath there were remnants of what looked like nice grain. The rim top was damaged and the inner edge of the bowl was rough. The bowl appeared to have been repeatedly reamed with a knife. The airway entering the bottom of the bowl was also worn from the piece of wire in the pipe case. I would clean up the pipe and leave the character intact. Many would have left the pipe as it was but to me the work that the original pipeman did to keep the pipe useable made me want to carry on his legacy and give Paresh a chance to at least smoke it.

I decided to clean up all of the parts individually. I scraped out the brass shell casing with a small pen knife and then scrubbed the inside with cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol until the inside was as clean as the shiny brass exterior. The first photo shows the cut edge that the wooden extension inserted into. The second photo shows smooth edge that sat on the carved ledge against the bowl and the other edge was the cut edge. I cleaned the wooden extension next, scraping the grit and tars that had built up on the inside. The end that fit toward the bowl had an airway drilled through from the other end. It looked to me that the airway had been burned through with a hot wire. It was darkened from being inserted into the brass and as it had oxidized it had coloured the wood. The end that held the stem was carved to receive the tenon. It had been banded with a copper ring to stabilize the wood. I used a pen knife to scrape the grime out of the extension and then cleaned it with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I used the topping board and 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the insert end and remove some of the damage to the wood.With the brass and wooden shank extensions cleaned it was time to clean the bowl. I took a photo of the bowl to show the thickness of the cake on the walls and the trough that had been carved in the bottom of the bowl to the airway leaving the bowl. It looks to me that the trough has been gouged out over time by cleaning the pipe with the wire that was in the box. The cake on bowl walls was thick and uneven all the way around. It was also quite crumbly and soft. The pipe smelled musty from the years that it had been sitting since the war. Once it was removed there would be work to be done to smooth out the walls of the bowl. There are spots that appear quite thin and there will need to be at least a bowl coating done to protect the bowl.I carefully removed the cake from the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife, scraping it from the walls. You can see from the photos how crumbly and soft the carbon chunks were. I wrapped some 220 grit sandpaper around a piece of dowel and sanded the walls to remove the remaining cake.I used a dental spatula to rebuild the inside back edge of the bowl rim with clear super glue and briar dust. This was just the first step in the process that would take a lot more work to bring it back to a useable condition.I lightly topped the bowl on a topping board with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I did not want to remove much of the briar, just smooth out the damage. The first photo shows the topping and the second the rim after topping.I filled in the divots in the bottom of the bowl and carefully repaired what looked like a crack in the briar with clear super glue and briar dust. Once the repair had cured I sanded the repair smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend it into the surface of the briar. I carefully sanded the bowl and rim with micromesh sanding pads. I set the bowl aside and worked on putting the parts of the shank extension back together. I heated the brass shell casing with a Bic lighter to expand it enough to be pressed on to the wooden shank tube. I scrubbed the tube with Before & After Pipe Balm and lightly sanded the extension with 220 grit sandpaper. I polished the brass and copper band with micromesh sanding pads.I cleaned out the inside of the newly reassembled shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. I cleaned out both ends of the new shank.I cleaned out the broken shank on the bowl with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol in preparation for gluing on the shank extension. I dried it out and coated the shelf with white all-purpose glue. Once the glue was in place I pressed the shank extension onto the bowl. I wiped away the excess glue. Once the glue had set I took pictures of the pipe at this point in the process. To match the stain remaining on the bowl I used the mislabeled tan aniline stain. It is a reddish-brown almost cordovan coloured. I figured it would match the existing colour very well. I applied the stain with a dauber and flamed it with a lighter to set it in the grain. I repeated the process until the coverage on the bowl was even.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to even out the coverage and make the stain more transparent. I wanted the grain to show through the finish. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner edge of the rim and the inside of the bowl.I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem at this point in the process. It was truly a mess. There were tars and oils lining the airway making it almost black and there was damage to the interior of the stem material around the airway. I started the cleaning process using liquid cleanser and pipe cleaners to remove some of the tars. I was able to get a lot of the stuff out of the airway.I used a small round needle file to further clean out the airway. I sanded the interior of the airway to smooth out the surface of the drilled area. I ran alcohol dampened pipe cleaners through after the files to clean out the dust. The stem was finally getting clean. I took some close up photos of the stem to show the airway after filing. The photos also show the internal damage to the stem from what looks like fire. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil. I rubbed down the briar and the oak shank extension with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar and oak with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The grain is really starting to stand out. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I carefully buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The newly stained finish works well when polished to really highlight the variety of grains and mask the damage around the bowl and shank. The polished Perspex stem works together with the beautiful grain in the briar and the brass and oak shank extension to give the pipe a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem demonstrate the creativity of the German soldier CK who left it in the trenches of North Africa. The dimensions are Length: 7 inches, Height: 1 inch, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. The pipe is ready to head back to Paresh in India once I finish the other ones he sent to me. This pipe has really travelled – from Germany to North Africa to India to Canada and back to India. I wish it could tell its own story. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this interesting piece of memorabilia. 

Restoring an Old-Vic 8523

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

The next pipe that I decided to work on is a smallish beautiful bent Dublin shape with unique hexagonal  giving the appearance of a honey collection cell in a beehive. These are definitely not hand crafted rustication as the perfect geometry, details and alignment of these tiny hexagons is difficult to achieve by hand. But, nevertheless, it is one handsome looking pipe!!!!

As described above, this dude has these rustication all over the stummel and over the round shank, save for a smooth portion on the bottom of the shank which bears all the identification marks of this pipe and the rim top which looks amazing. It is stamped on the left corner of the shank with “Old-Vic” in with old style curls. The end of the letter “c” curves back in a linear fashion and underlines up to the letter “d” in the name Old , before fading off gradually. Old-Vic is followed by “# 8523”. Just below the number and starting from the end of the letter “c” in Old-Vic, it is stamped as “CENTURY OLD” over “BRIAR ITALY”. Towards the right end of the shank and mid way, it bears the stamp “BURL GRAIN” in an arch over a very faint stamp which I could not make out. The vulcanite saddle stem is of high quality and is stamped on the left side of the saddle with “OLD-VIC”.Not much is known about this brand other than that these were made by LORENZO and hence the Italian connection. I have to concede that Italian pipes are very desirable looking with perfect proportions and beautifully crafted. I had even made an attempt to know more about this line of Lorenzo pipes by emailing Lorenzo’s American distributors, but have no response from them since last 15 days. Mr. Dal Stanton, if you are reading this piece, please enlighten me with your MANTRA for making these guys respond!!!!!!!!!!!

As is commonly seen on rusticated or sandblasted pipes with some serious age on them, the crevices in these are always filled with dust, dirt, oils, tars and grime from all the years of smoking and storage. This Old-Vic is no exception to this observation. The small hexagonal pockets are filled with dust while the smooth bottom of the shank is covered in dust and sticky grime. The fact that the hexagonal patterns are dirty and filled with dirt is accentuated more due to a very dark reddish brown stain on the stummel and the shank. The briar is looking lifeless and bone dry and has taken black hues. The bowl is narrow and tapers down towards the draught hole. The chamber is so filled with cake that I am unable to reach the bottom of the bowl with my little finger. The build-up of the cake is more heavy in the bottom half of the bowl. The mortise is full of oils and gunk and air flow is restricted. The rim top is smooth and the grains are accentuated with a lighter stain, which can be seen through the overflowing lava. The inner and outer edge of the rim is in pristine condition with no dings or dents. The vulcanite stem is so heavily oxidized that it appears brown in color!!!! Some light tooth chatter is seen on both surfaces of the stem towards the lip. This issue should not be a major headache to address. The lip edge on both side is crisp and without any damage. The quality of vulcanite is good. THE PROCESS
I started this project by removing the cake from the chamber and cleaning it. However, no sooner did I start, I realized that my Kleen Reem pipe reamer would not fit in the chamber. The cake was so densely packed and thick that my British Buttner reamer could get damaged. So, the only option left was my fabricated knife!!!!  It was laborious, but the task was accomplished. I found the chamber to be solid and without any heat fissures or cracks. To finish the chamber, I used a folded piece of 150 grit sand paper to sand the inner walls. This was followed by 220 and 400 grit sand paper and now we have a smooth and even surface on the walls of the chamber, ready for taking on a fresh layering of carbon cake!!!!! I wiped the rim top with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This helped me to get rid of all the overflow of lava as well as the dirt and dust that had accumulated on the rim surface. This was followed by cleaning the mortise with cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This further eliminated all the traces of old smells from previous usage. Now, it was the turn of the stummel to get cleaned up. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed through all the hexagonal patterns, cleaning them thoroughly. I cleaned the rim too. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. I set the stummel aside to dry out naturally.While the stummel was drying, I worked the stem. In order to address the minor tooth chatters, I flame the surfaces of the stem with a Bic lighter. This brings most of the tooth chatter to the surface. For a better blending, I further sanded the entire stem with 220 followed by 400 and 800 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the sanding marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with alcohol after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil. The internals of the stem was cleaned out using alcohol and pipe cleaners. The finished stem is shown below. I wanted to highlight the grains on the rim top as well as enhance the contrast with the rest of the pipe. To achieve this aim, I sand down the rim top using micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. The rim top now has a deep shine with grains popping out and now with a magnificent contrast with rest of the stummel. Once I was satisfied with the stem and rim top restoration, I started work on the stummel which has dried by now. I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. To finish, using a cotton cloth and brute muscle power, I gave it a final polish. I re-attach the stem with the stummel. The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the photographs speak for themselves. Thank you for having the patience to reach this far while reading the write up.