Tag Archives: stabilizing a horn stem

Another Piece Pipe History – a Lovely CPF French Briar Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe I brought to the work table was a little bent CPF French Briar billiard. The photos below shows what it looked like before my brother did his clean up on it. It is another one from the lot of pipes my brother and I picked up on our virtual pipe hunt in Montana. I have written about several of the other CPF finds with the latest being a nice little CPF horn stem bulldog. Just a reminder – CPF stands for Colossus Pipe Factory. The brand was made in the late 1880s and 1890s. This little bent billiard comes from the same era as the other pipes in this find. It was very worn and looked to be in rough condition. The finish was non-existent and there were a lot of nicks, scratches and grime on the surface all around the bowl. There was a thick, crumbling cake buildup in the bowl and it overflowed on to the top of the rim. It looked like the inner edge of the bowl was damaged from reaming with a knife but I could not be certain until the cake was gone. The gold band on the shank was so badly oxidized that it was impossible to see what was under the grime and sticky debris on it. The horn stem had tooth marks on the top and underside near the button and looked like it was delaminating along the edges and the bend on the underside. The horn was very dry. Jeff took some close up photos of the bowl and rim from the top. You can see the crumbling condition of the cake in the bowl and the thick overflow on the rim top. It was really hard to see the condition of the inner edge of the bowl.The grain underneath all of the grim on the sides of the bowl was really quite stunning, even through the debris, grime and buildup. The birdseye and cross grain stain out really well even through the dirty surface. The oxidation on the band was also heavy and very rough. It is hard to know what is underneath the corrosion.The stamping on the left side of the shank has the standard C.P.F. logo in an oval with French arched over the oval and Briar arched underneath. The stamping on the C.P.F. is fainter than the stamping on French Briar. The second photo shows the junction between the band and the horn stem. The horn looks rough and grainy.The next four photos show the stem from various angles. The first and second photos show what looks like delaminating on the left side near the button. The third and fourth photos show tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem at the button. The tooth marks on the top are deep. Jeff thoroughly cleaned the pipe. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the grime and grit on the bowl. He scrubbed the tenon with a tooth brush and removed the tars and oils. I took photos of the pipe to show the condition it was in when it arrived in Vancouver. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition it was in after my brother had cleaned it up. It is amazing to me that he was able to remove the thick buildup on the rim top and the crumbling cake in the bowl and leave no debris behind. It was better than I had expected. The rough spots would be easy to sand out and smooth the ridges and bring it back to round. It appeared that the pipe had never been smoked to the bottom of the bowl as the bottom of the bowl is raw briar.The next two photos show the condition of both sides of the stem after the cleanup. Note the roughness on the underside of the stem and the tooth marks/chatter on both to top and the bottom near the button.You can see the oxidation on the band in the photos above. It is not clear what colour it is. The sticky grime was cleaned off but the oxidation would need to go. I sanded the band with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads to remove all of the sticky substance and the oxidation on the surface. It came off really easily with some polishing. I glued the band in place on the shank with white glue and let it dry.I smoothed out the damage on the inner edge of the rim with 220 grit sandpaper and gave it a light bevel to minimize the damage. I stained the beveled edge on the bowl with a black Sharpie pen to blend it in with the inside walls of the bowl. I wet sanded the bowl and rim with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads.  I wiped it down with a damp cotton pad to remove the sanding grit. I polished the band while I worked on the bowl with the same grits of micromesh pads. The following photos showed the polishing on the briar. I touched up the gold leaf on the CPF French Briar logo with European Gold Rub’n Buff. I applied it with a cotton swab and wiped down the excess gold. The light of the flash showed more of the gold buff that needed to come off.I stained the bowl with a 50/50 mix of dark brown aniline stain and isopropyl alcohol. I applied the stain and flamed it with a lighter. I repeated the process until I felt the coverage was even. Once it dried I took some photos of the stained bowl. It is too dark to my liking but the coverage was even. I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on cotton pads to make it more transparent and let the grain show through. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads to further remove the stain and make the grain show through. The process of unveiling the grain is shown in the photos that follow.With the bowl finished I worked on the stem. I used some small drops of super glue to fill in the tooth marks on the stem surface and the button. Once the repairs had dried I sanded them smooth to blend them into the surface of the stem. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil on a cotton cloth. I gave it a final coat after the last pad and set it aside to dry. I buffed the stem and bowl with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel to polish it. I gave the stem and bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the waxed bowl and stem with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos that follow. The old timer looks really good and should have long years of life in it. I look forward to enjoying this pocket sized pipe. Thanks for walking with me through the process of the restoration.

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Ship-Shape: Refurbishing a Mokin Corsaire 7087


Blog by Anthony Cook

The second pipe sent to me by my PSU friend for some work is a unique one. Let me introduce you to the Mokin Corsaire 7087. It’s a small pipe, just shy of five inches in length and about one and a quarter inches tall at the bowl. It has an author-ish shape, except that there is a spine that runs along the bottom like the keel on a ship. I suppose that’s where the “Corsaire” comes from, but despite the masculinity in that name, to my eye there is something distinctly feminine in the shape.Mokin1 The condition of this one was rough to put it mildly. The stummel had some fairly heavy scratches and dents. The rim was scorched and there was a divot on one side where the wood had been burned away. The briar was unstained but covered in a thick, tinted lacquer coating. I suppose this was done to help hide the many fills, but the lacquer wasn’t thick enough to prevent the black stain on the bottom from seeping through into the grain. Oh, did I mention the beautiful horn stem with the busted face and a crack that ran along half the length on the underside? Yeah, like I said, rough.

Here are some more triage photos:Mokin2

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Mokin5 Stamping detail:Mokin6 I gave the pipe a thorough internal cleaning, and then stripped off the lacquer finish with acetone and cotton pads. The lacquer lifted easily but it was a mess. It turned into a thick, sticky residue when it came into contact with the acetone. Once the stummel was clean, the grain became more apparent and it was stunning! I’m a bit of a grain-hound. So, I already knew that I was going to have to work that up as best I could.

I scrubbed at the dark stain on the bottom with the same acetone dampened pads to try to lift it or at least lighten it, but the attempt was in vain. The acetone didn’t even put a dent in it. I was fresh out of ideas and thought that I would probably have to sand them out, but before I did that, I shot Steve an email explaining the problem. He suggested that I try lemon juice. It seemed counterintuitive to me. What could lemon juice do to a stain that acetone couldn’t touch? Anything is worth a shot when you’re desperate though. So, I gave it a try and it worked amazingly well! The only stain that remained was what had set into the softest grain and that was something that I could work with.Mokin7 With the tinted lacquer removed, the fills were more evident than ever. There were seven of them in all and a couple of them were quite large. That’s a lot for any pipe, but especially so for a stummel this small. I picked each of them out and patched the pits with CA and a mix of fine briar dust and course briar file shavings. I find that the course shavings take the stain better, but the fine dust is a better mix with the CA. When mixed together, the resulting patch is still dark but it is mottled with lighter areas that will accept stain well.

I sanded out each of the patches with 220-grit and 320-grit paper and topped the bowl with the same grits until the majority of the burned wood around the rim was removed. Then, I gave a slight chamfer to the inner rim to soften the edge and lightly sanded the entire stummel with 320-grit paper to remove most of the scratches.

It was while I was sanding the stummel that I noticed that the carving was a little sloppy. The left side of the stummel was noticeably less rounded than the right, which made the stummel appear a little lopsided. It was obvious that it wasn’t intentional, but I debated with myself whether to try to correct it or preserve it as part of the personality of the pipe. In the end, I chose to split the difference and round off the upper and lower areas of the left side for a better match with the right.Mokin8 The stummel was ready for finishing. So, I moved on to address the damage to the stem. Usually, I would drill a small hole at the end of the crack to stop the run. In this case, however, that wasn’t really an option. The main crack that extended up from the stem face fractured into several short, stair-step cracks at the end. I decided that it would be best to just seal and stabilize them and hope for the best.

I wrapped clear tape around a thin bit of cardboard and cut a hole for the tenon to push through. This little contraption would serve a dual purpose as both a method for keeping the patched area of the stem face relatively flat and even, and also as stand to support the stem while the patches dried. I patched the cracks and holes with baking soda and CA in the same manner that I would apply a briar dust and CA patch on the stummel. I use super-thin CA for patches. It has about the same viscosity as milk and I think that it penetrates better into the dust than standard CA. It can be tricky to work with until you get used to it. Even though I’ve kind of gotten a handle on it by now, you can see in the photo below that it still got away from me a bit in the bend of the stem.Mokin9 I also filled a couple of bite marks on either side of the stem and when all the patches were fully dry, I sanded them out with 220-grit and 320-grit paper. The cracks were fairly tight. So, I didn’t get as much baking soda worked into them as I would have liked and they appear dark in the photo below. They are sealed and smooth to the touch though.

I continued to sand with 400, 600, and 1200-grit paper to smooth the surface. I used a drop of mineral oil between each grit. The oil allows the sanding dust to collect as slurry on the stem rather than build up on the paper. It also moisturizes the horn, which keeps the ends of the fine fibers from raising and splintering. A good polish with the full range of Micro-Mesh pads finished up the work on the stem.Mokin10 I knew from the beginning that I couldn’t leave the finish natural. There were just too many fills for that. I also knew that I couldn’t completely hide them. So, I hoped that I could give the grain enough “pop” with a bit of stain to draw the eyes away from them.

I applied four stains in all; dark brown, medium brown, light brown, and British tan. The first three were thinned with three parts isopropyl alcohol to one part stain. The last stain was thinned by eye until it was just a light wash. I applied the first stain, and then sanded with 400-grit paper. The second stain was applied before sanding with 600 and 1200-grit paper. After the third stain, I polished the stummel with 1500 through 4000-grit Micro-Mesh pads and gave the stummel a Tripoli buff on the buffing wheel. Then, I applied the stain wash and finished up the work on the stummel with the remaining Micro-Mesh grits. All sanding up to 3600-grit Micro-Mesh was wet sanded and the stummel was hand-buffed with a soft cloth after each stain to remove any excess.

Finally, I polished up the brass ferrule with Semichrome polish and used a bit of epoxy to affix it to the stummel. All that remained after that was to buff the pipe with White Diamond and apply several coats of carnauba wax before it was time for some photos.Mokin11

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Mokin14 I know that many may regard this one as just a novelty pipe, but despite the rough edges, it may be my favorite refurbishment work to date. The photos barely do justice to the color or the grain on this pipe. The credit for the transformation is not really mine though. This was one of the most cooperative pipes that I’ve ever worked with. It set on the bench and said, “Make me a star.” I was charmed and did the best that I could.