Tag Archives: staining

A Refurb and a Replacement Stem for a Lorenzetti Galatea Apple


Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I received a phone call from an interesting woman who had been given my phone number by a local pipe and cigar shop. She had a couple of pipes that needed some stem repair. In our conversation it turned out that they belonged to her husband and he had a total of two pipes. Both of them needed work and she was determined to get them repaired for him. In our talking we spoke of the options – either repairing the stem or making a new stem. She spoke with him and they decided to repair them. A few days later her husband stopped by the house to show me the two pipes. We talked and he decided to work on one pipe at a time so that he would have one to smoke while I repaired the other one. I finished the repair on the stem of his Big Ben Nautic 252 bent apple kind of quasi brandy shaped pipe. Here is the link to the stem repair on that pipe. https://rebornpipes.com/2017/12/22/restoring-repairing-a-damaged-stem-on-a-big-ben-nautic-252/ I returned it to him and he dropped off his second pipe for a repair as well. Two days later he called and said he had already chomped through the repair on the one he took with him. Even with a rubber softee bit he had demolished the repair. So we decided on this one to replace the stem.

The second pipe is a Lorenzetti Galatea Bent apple shape. It is stamped on the left side of the shank Lorenzetti over Italy. On the right side it is stamped Galatea. There is no shape number on the bowl or shank. The end of the shank has a decorative ferrule that is silver with two silver rings and a Lucite ring. The original stem also had a silver band between the shank and the rest of the stem. Lots of bling on this Italian beauty. The stem was black acrylic. From the side view photos below the pipe looked pretty good. The finish was dirty but the pipe appeared to be in decent condition. The top view photos show what the bowl and stem looked like from the top and underside views. Like the other pipe the bowl on this one had never been reamed and there was a thick cake that was composed of aromatic tobacco. It was soft and sticky. The lava overflow on the rim top was also sticky to touch. The smell of the pipe was a sickly sweet and sour smell of a pipe that had never seen a pipe cleaner and never had been cleaned. Once again he had gnawed the stem and had broken the top edge and a bit of the stem in front of the button. It was a mess. The underside had deep tooth marks and was also damaged. The poor pipe was a mess but he obviously smoked it as much as he did the first one. Now I had a task – clean and replace the stem on this one so that I could put a new stem on the first one. I had a mission. I took photos of the pipe before I cleaned it up. I took a close up photo of the bowl and rim to show the thickness and composition of the cake and the thick overflow of lava on the rim top. It looked to me that there was some damage to the inner edge and bevel of the rim on the right side of the bowl toward the back. I would know more once I reamed the cake back and could see what was underneath. It was not in nearly the condition of the Big Ben that finished for him early. I also took some photos of the stem damage so that you could see what I was up against. The sad thing to me was that this second pipe had exactly the same damage to the stem and the bowl looked identical as well.I reamed the bowl back to bare briar with a PipNet pipe reamer. I started reaming it with the smallest cutting head and worked my way up to the second cutting head which matched the diameter of the bowl. I touched up the reaming with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe knife.The rim was in rough condition. There was gouging around the inner edge of the bowl cause by a knife and there was some charring in that area as well. The rest of the rim was in rough condition and appeared to have been knocked about a bit. It would need to be topped and reworked.I topped the bowl on a hard board with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I was able to remove much of the surface damage to the rim top. The second photo below shows the top of the rim after the topping. You can see the charred area in that photo as well.I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to re-bevel the inner edge of the rim and smooth out the damaged areas on the right inner edge. I blended that area into the rest of the beveled rim. Once it was shaped correctly I wiped it down and polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-6000 grit pads. I restained the top and inner edge of the rim with a dark brown stain pen. The colour blended well with the rest of the bowl.I had enough of the smell of the pipe permeating the workspace so I decided to rid it of the smell filled my work area. I used pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to clean out the interior of mortise and the airway in the shank. I used a dental spatula to scrape the walls of the mortise area. It took a lot of pipe cleaners to remove all of the buildup but once it was clean the pipe smelled better and it would be more pleasant for me to work on.With internals clean I turned my attention to the outside of the briar. I rubbed the bowl and shank down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the smooth finish, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers and wiped it off with a soft cloth. I buffed the bowl with a soft cotton cloth to polish it. It really began to have a rich shine in the briar. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. With the bowl finished I set it aside and went through my can of stems to find one that would work well with the pipe. I had two that could work – one was a vulcanite stem that had promise and looked good on the shank. It was the same length but slightly smaller in diameter than the original stem. The other stem was Lucite/acrylic. It was the same diameter as the previous stem and about 1/8 inch shorter. It also looked good with the pipe. Neither stem had the metal adornment on the end. I had nothing like that in my available stems. I chose the acrylic stem as it as harder than the vulcanite and I believe it will outlast the vulcanite stem with this particular pipe man. The tenon was slightly shorter but the shank was wide open with a deep mortise that was designed for a filter. I figured the length of the tenon did not matter in this case. I bent the stem over a heat gun to match the original stem. I sanded out the nicks and marks on the stem surface. The second and third photos below show the stem after the bend. I continued to sand out the nicks and scratches with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the stem surface. There were a lot of rough places on the stem and the tenon that needed to be smoothed out and blended into the surface.I polished out the sanding scratches and marks in the acrylic on both sides of the stem and the button surface itself with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped down the stem after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I used a series of needle files to open the stem and funnel the airflow. After that I buffed the stem on the buffing wheel with Blue Diamond to polish out the final scratches in the acrylic. I put the stem on the bowl and worked the pipe bowl over on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond to polish the bowl and stem. I hand buffed the stem to raise the gloss on the stem and polished the metal stem adornment with a silver polishing cloth. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The medium brown stains on the smooth finish of the apple shaped bowl works well with the rich black of the Lucite stem. The new stem and the polishing revealed a beautiful piece of briar and a well-shaped pipe. Thanks for looking.

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A Few Firsts on a GBD Garland II Calabash 9552


Blog by Aaron Henson

Before you get into this write up, I need to confess that despite my best efforts, I did a poor job of photo documenting this repair and restoration.  I had good intentions, but the project was spread out over two months, working on it as I had time. Because of this, some of the pictures were taken out of sequence and others were chosen that best show a repair but also show repairs that have not yet been covered in the write up.

I realized a while back, that I had not restored a pipe recently that I was really excited about.  There have been a number pipes that have crossed my work table and some have even posed some new challenges but the pipes themselves were hardly memorable. With the pickings at the second hand store in my area being slim – I turned to eBay to see if I could find a project pipe that would peak my interest.  After a few hours of browsing I, found just what I was after: a stemless, GBD Garland II stummel – shape 9552.  I submitted my bid and picked it up for a price that I thought was reasonable.

I don’t typically like to buy pipes on eBay.  I prefer to be able to see them first hand so I know what I am getting myself into.  But in this case the seller was forthcoming in the auction description, revealing that the pipe had a major crack in the bowl and another in the shank and of course, it lacked a stem.  But what really fascinated me was the shape of the stummel and what promised to be some beautiful grain patterns.

The following pictures were from the seller auction page: Wanting an idea of what kind of stem was originally on the pipe, I headed on-line to see what I could find.  My first stop was here at Reborn Pipes.  In a 2016 article, our host, Steve, restored a GBD Colossus Fantasy 9552.  I found additional examples of the 9552 shape in the GBD’s Prehistoric, Prestige and Virgin lines.  In all cases the 9552 originally came with a bent saddle bit – some fancier than others.

These next two pictures are of a Garland II I found online.  I was not going to try to duplicate the band in the stem, but knew I was going to need a band on the shank and that wouldn’t look too bad. Then I ended up at a Pipedia article for GBD Models where I learned that the Garland is a seconds line from GBD. I found this surprising because the Garland that I have and the ones I have seen online are excellent specimens of briar.  Admittedly, my eye is not that experienced, but just from the quality of the briar and the lack of fills and pitting I would guess that the Garland line is GBD’s higher end seconds consisting more of fabrication errors rather than materials flaws.  Can anyone confirm my guess?

Another interesting fact that I note is that the 9552 shape is often stamped with “Colossus”.  The term Colossus was used by GBD as plus sized pipe designation.  This size designation is used on all the GBD lines of pipes, but is lacking on this particular Garland II stummel. When the stummel arrived, I eagerly open the package and began to inspect the damage up close, fearing that some of the worst damage may not have been disclosed.  But the seller’s pictures and description were accurate and I didn’t find hidden issues.  The pipe was indeed big; the bowl height is 2.4 inches and the outside diameter is 1.75 inches. The chamber is 0.96 of an inch in diameter and 1.9 inches deep.

The left side of the shank is stamped GBD in an oval over Garland II.  The left side has the COM (Country of Manufacture) stamp: MADE IN LONDON in a circle over ENGLAND and the shape number to the right: 9552. There was a heavy amount of the lava on the rim and the bevel at the edge of the chamber was a little distorted.  The chamber too seemed to be drilled a little off center.  Perhaps this was the why it was a second?  The chamber had been reamed but not back to briar. The horizontal crack in the bowl was located on the left side and was a little over an inch long.  I suspected that it went all the way through bowl wall but I could not be certain until I finished reaming the chamber.  The crack in the stem was about half an inch long from the end of the shank right through the COM stamp but missing the shape number. Looking the pipe over closely, I noted quite a few dents in the heel of the stummel and handling scratches on the sides of bowl and the rim.  I guessed that this piece of briar had been rattling around in a drawer for some time.Now that I had the stummel in hand I could measure the shank diameter (.610” at the end) and estimate the length that I wanted the new stem to be; about 3-1/4 inches. I took these measurements to the Vermont Freehand website and selected a stem that best fit.  I chose the vulcanite stem blank number 722, a round saddle bit 21/32” diameter and 3-1/16” inches long.  I always order two in case I ruin the first one.  I also ordered four nickel plated shank rings, two 15.5 mm and two 16 mm not being sure which would be the better fit. With the parts on order, I started cleaning up the interior of the stummel.  I reamed the chamber back to bare wood with my Castleford reamer and Decatur pipe knife. I also cleaned the shank alternating with bristled and soft pipe cleaners dipped in 91% isopropyl alcohol.  The last person who tried reaming the chamber must have also ran a pipe cleaner or two through it because it only took five or six pipe cleaners before they started coming out as clean as they went in. The mortise I cleaned with cotton swabs. In all, the stummel was relatively clean. I wiped down the outside of the stummel with alcohol and acetone to remove the grime.  Underneath the dirt and oils was some beautiful straight grain with a birds-eye heel.  I looked closely and could not find any fills.  Next, I addressed the thin crust of dried tars on the rim.  I wetted down a green pad (mine was actually blue and did not work as well as the original green ones) with a mixture of tap water and granulated Oxy-clean.  Placing the pad in a shallow dish, I pressed the rim of the pipe down on the pad and scrubbed in a circular motion.  A little elbow grease and the moist Oxy-clean solution did its job. I dried the stummel with a paper towel and set it aside to dry for a bit.Next, I wanted to remove the ghosts of the previous tobacco that I could still smell in the chamber with an alcohol soak.  I use the cotton ball method because it seems to do the job and is easier to clean up than the salt method. This chamber needed three cotton balls and I used 98% grain alcohol for the soak. I placed a cap over the top of the bowl for the first couple of hours to keep the alcohol from evaporating too fast then I removed the cap so the evaporative action can draw out the tars from the briar.When I got back to it the next day I was disappointed (though not surprised) that the crack in the bowl was wet where alcohol had been seeping through.  At lease now I knew for sure that the crack went all the way through the bowl wall.  The good news was I could easily see the ends of the hairline crack.  I used a dental pick to mark the ends so I could find them later, then I removed the cotton balls and wiped out the chamber with a dry paper towel. I began the crack repair by using a small drill bit (0.5 mm) and hand drilled the stopper holes at the location I marked with the dental pick. Since the crack went completely trough the chamber wall I also drilled the hole all the way through the wall.  I have not dealt with a crack that was this deep before so I was on unfamiliar ground.  I packed the hole the half full with briar dust using a tooth pick then placed a drop of clear CA glue into the hole – coaxing it in with the tooth pick.  I filled the holes up the rest of the way and dripped more glue.  I used a magnifying glass to locate the end of the shank crack and gave it the same treatment.

I unsuccessfully tried working some CA glue into the bowl crack. The glue just seemed to set too fast and did not penetrate the crack.  The shank crack on the other hand I could work open and get the glue to flow into it.  I put a clamp on the shank while the glue set.  Then when dry, I sanded the glued repairs smooth with 220 grit paper, careful not to over sand and change the shape of the pipe or damage the stamping on the shank. I resolved to repair the bowl crack by applying coat of heat resistant epoxy to the inside of the chamber.  In this case I used the two part JB Weld – not the Quick Weld, which is useful for other pipe repairs.  For pipe chamber repairs, I like the original JB Weld epoxy, it is easy to use and when cured it has a 550 degree (F) heat resistance.  It is also easy to sand smooth.  I apply it with my finger because it is much easier to get an even coat.  I highly recommend wearing a pair of powder free Nitrile blue gloves for this operation! By this time the parts from Vermont Freehand arrived and wanted to band the shank. I have fixed a few banded pipes before but never put a band on an unbanded pipe. I tried dry fitting the two different sized bands I had bought.  The smaller band would only just slip on the first fraction of an inch so I was glad I had ordered the next size up. The bands were a bit wider than I wanted because I did not want it to cover up too much of the stamping.  Not sure what to do about the band width, I kept focusing on the seating of the band.  I used a heat gun to heat up the band and get it to expand.  Then with the band resting on a wood block, I pressed the shank down into the ring. The first attempt didn’t go well. The band was a bit cocked and only seated about a quarter of an inch.  I realized that the shank’s taper was going to prevent the band from going on much farther and that was going to resolve the width issue; I was going to have to trim the band.

I removed the band and heated it up again.  I smeared a little CA glue around the end of the shank and was able to seat the band squarely.  This time about 3/8” onto the shank.  Once cool, I used a skinny wheel on a rotary tool to trim of the excess band material and flush it up to the end of the shank.  Although the band covered up the COM stamp and ‘AND II’ of ‘GARLAND II’ it was necessary and it gives the stummel a touch of class. I was pleased that the replacement stem I had chosen seemed to be a good fit although it was going to need some work.  I started by using a fine tooth file to square up the face of the stem so it sits flush to the shank and removing the casting burrs.The tenon on the blank was way oversized as was the body of the stem.  I don’t have a tenon turning tool, so I use my drill press to turn the stem.  Wedging a bamboo skewer into the air hole at the tenon end, I leave about an inch of skewer exposed that I can secure into the chuck of the drill.  Setting the drill to about 1300 RPM I use small pieces of 60 grit sand paper to slowly reduce the diameter of the tenon and the stem until it the correct size. The drill press method works well in theory.  Once in a while the stem slips loose from its friction fit with the skewer and I have to reseat it.  I work the vulcanite with 60, 120 and 220 grit sand paper, leaving the polishing to be done by hand with micromesh pads.

I kept a caliper nearby set at the correct tenon diameter to check my progress.  As I got closer to the correct size, I switched to 120 and 220 grit paper.  But I didn’t switch soon enough!  By the time I got some of the deep scratches of the 60 grit out I had overturned the tenon and it was a hair too small.  I finished turning the body of the stem before addressing the tenon issue.I thought at first that a little bee’s wax on the tenon would be enough to tighten the fit but in the end I had enlarge the tenon.  To do this, I heated the tenon and inserted a drill bit into the air hole to enlarge the tenon.  Letting the tenon cool with the bit in it I checked the fit:  A little too big.  I didn’t want to take anymore material off the tenon because if the tenon gets hot during a smoke it will return to its original size, vulcanite has a memory.  I looked around my tool box and found a small punch that had a slightly smaller diameter than the drill bit and repeated the heating process.  This time the fit was much better.

With the stem fitted it was time to bend the stem.  I have jig for holding round stock and I used this to hold the assembled pipe steady with the bit resting on a 1-1/4” round dowel.  Using my heat gun, I heated the bit until it draped over the dowel.  I dipped the bent stem in water to cool the vulcanite and set the shape.  Then I checked the angle of the bend and had to repeat the process a couple of times until I had what I thought was the original stem shape just right.Stem polishing started with 220 grit to remove the remainder of the casting burrs.  Then I wet sand with micromesh pads 1500 – 4000.I removed the plastic guard after the 2400 pad.  I used the 3200 and higher micromesh pads to also polish the band.After the 4000 pad I coated the stem with mineral oil and let it sit for a few hours.  Then I finish polishing with pads 6000 to 12000. I started finishing the stummel by giving it a steam treatment to raise the dents and handling damage.  Holding a wet terry cloth rag on the briar I press a hot iron on to it.  This method works very well but I have two points of caution: 1) don’t burn your fingers in the steam; and 2) do not press the iron near the stamping, it will ruin stamping very quickly.  I only apply the iron around the bowl body and the heel where the dents are the worst anyway.

I sanded the stummel with micromesh pads 1500 through 3200, with special attention paid to the rim to make sure it was smooth.  I selected Fiebing’s dark brown aniline dye to better hide the repairs and applied the stain, without dilution, using a cotton swab straight from the bottle.  I used a flame to heat and set the stain.  I wiped down the stummel with isopropyl alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the excess stain.  I kept wiping it down until the level of color was what I thought it should be. After staining the stummel I like to refresh the briar with a light coat of mineral oil and let the oil soak in overnight.  All of the alcohol in the stain and the wiping down tends to dry out the stummel and I find the mineral oil helps to bring some of the life back to the briar.  It also seems to give the finished pipe a healthy look.After the oil soaked in, I polished the briar with the 3200 – 6000 micromesh pads.  Wiping it down with a clean cloth when finished.I took the assembled pipe back to my drill press/buffing station and ran over the entire pipe with red diamond polishing compound.  Two or three passes of the pipe seems to prepare the pipe well for the final finish.  I wiped the pipe down with a microfiber cloth to remove the buffing compound and then changed the buffing wheel for the waxing wheel.  Three coats of carnauba wax put a nice shine on the pipe.

The last step in this restoration was the bowl coat.  I had earlier sanded the epoxy chamber repair and wiped out the bowl with alcohol so the inside was relatively smooth.  I mixed up a small batch of bowl coat using 2 teaspoons of sour cream and about three activated charcoal capsules.  This made a thick, black, creamy paste that I spooned into the chamber with a wood spatula made from a popsicle stick. Donning the Nitrile gloves again, I used my finger to evenly spread the coating around the inside of the chamber. Wiping the excess coating off the rim with a cotton pad I set the pipe aside to dry for a few days.

Now am I looking forward to the weather warming up so I can break in this pipe.  I think it might become one in my regular rotation. Thank you for sharing in my adventure. If you like the tamper in the picture above, it is one that I made and is for sale.  Please see the Reborn Pipes Store page for it and other tampers.  All proceeds go to charity.

 

 

 

 

 

Resurrecting an old GFB Bent Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

I have worked on three older GFB pipes over the past 4 years. One was an unsmoked briar calabash, one a military mount bent billiard and the final one a horn stemmed bulldog. All had the same stamping as the pipe I am working on now. All were made of a nice piece of briar and all had the same classic shape to them. When I saw this old pipe on eBay I wanted to add it to the collection. It was similar in shape to the little GFB horn stemmed bulldog though the stem was shorter. The first photo below shows the horn stemmed GFB and the second one was photo that the seller included in the eBay advertisement. The stem on the second one is a Bakelite amberoid stem. The finish on both pipes appeared to be similar. The shape is identical. The stamping on the top pipe was GFB in an oval with three stars over the oval. The second pipe has the same GFB oval but it did not have the stars on it. I am including the link to the previous blog. https://rebornpipes.com/2013/11/21/restoring-an-older-gfb-three-star-horn-stem-bent-bulldog/I am including the rest of the photos that seller attached to the item. They give a pretty good picture of what I saw when I was hooked by the pipe. The finish was very worn. The stem was the same size as the shank and lined up straight on all angles. The stem appears to have a paper washer between the shank and the stem to help keep things straight. It appears that there is a small gap between the shank and the stem but I would not know for sure until I saw it. It is a small pipe – just 4 inches long and 1 ¾ inches tall.The rim top looked to be darkened and possibly burnt in the next two photos but it is hard to tell by the dark quality of the photos. The stem shows some damage on the edge at the joint with the shank. The photos show that the pipe is clearly stamped with the GFB in an oval logo. In the article I noted above on the other GFB bulldog I found some interesting information that I have included here for ease of reference.

The first thing I found was information that the GFB brand was an older French Trademark and that it came from Saint Claude, France. A more focused search for GFB French Briar Pipes led to information that the stamping GFB stood for Great French Briar – something about that did not seem right to me so I continued to look and finally came across the following advertisement from a Sears Catalogue. It shows a full page of GFB pipes and the header says GENUINE FRENCH BRIAR. That made much more sense to me, and all three of my GFB pipes match the pipes in the catalogue. It was good to be reminded of the old brand. I am pretty sure that all three of my GFB pipes come from either the late 1890’s or the early 1900’s. Here are links to the other two GFB pipes that I restored and restemmed if you are interested in some further reading on the brand.

https://rebornpipes.com/2013/06/07/restemming-and-reclaiming-an-older-unsmoked-gfb-briar-calabash/

https://rebornpipes.com/2013/04/01/restoring-a-gfb-bent-billiard-another-reclamation-project/

When the pipe arrived in Idaho, Jeff took photos of it. His photos gave a more accurate look at the condition of the pipe before he cleaned it up. The bowl had a lot of black spots all around the sides of the bowl and the shank. The paper washer can be seen between the stem and the shank. It almost looks like a spacer. The Bowl had a thick cake that had overflowed onto the rim top and hardened like lava. The finish on the bowl was worn and tired but the original reddish brown stain still looked good underneath the grime. The rim top was so covered it was hard to know if the inner or outer edge had damage. The stem had tooth marks on both the top and the underside near the button itself was worn as was the slot in the end. The stem material was amberlike but was not amber. There was some crazing in the stem material on both sides of the stem. Jeff took a close up photo of the stem to show the condition of the bowl and the rim top. You can see the thick cake in the bowl and it appears that there may be a little damage on the front right side of the inner edge of the bowl. He also included a picture of the left side of the bowl with the black spots on the finish – it almost looked like tar. The next two photos show the stamping on the left side of the shank. It shows the GFB in an oval logo. It is slightly worn but still showed signs of the gold leaf that is stamped inside the logo.Jeff unscrewed the stem from the shank. In the next photos you can see the buildup of tars and oils on the bone tenon and the wear on it as well. The paper washer was torn and when he removed it off the tenon it fell apart.The next photos show the crazing in the stem and a few cut marks on the top side. The stem was worn, dirty and the sharp edge of the button had smoothed out and was worn into the surface.Jeff did a thorough cleanup on the bowl and stem. He reamed the bowl back to bare briar with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall reamer. He cleaned the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs – scrubbing out the mortise as it was very dirty. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil soap and a tooth brush and was able to remove all of the tars and oils built up on the briar. He was able to remove all of the tars and lava on the rim top and left it looking very clean. The damage on the rim top and outer edge was clean and visible. He cleaned the stem with warm soapy water and rinsed it with clean water to remove the soap in the airway. When it arrived I forgot to take photos of the pipe. I started to work on it before I took the photos. I remembered after I had topped the bowl and also started to sand the stem and fit it to the shank. I painted the worn tenon with clear fingernail polish to build it up. Then fit it to the shank and took some photos of it to show how it looked before I continued on the restoration. I took photos of the stem to show the crazing in the Bakelite and some of the damaged areas on the top and underside.I took some photos of the topping process on the bowl. I did not have to remove too much of the rim surface to get rid of the damage to that area. I used 220 grit sandpaper on the topping board and carefully worked on the rim top until it was smooth and the damaged removed.I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I filled in the deep gouges on the top of the stem with amber super glue. I sprayed it with accelerator and when it dried I sanded out the repairs with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface. I polished out the sanding scratches and marks in the Bakelite with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I carefully buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel so as not to let it get too hot and damage the material. I brought it back to the table and sanded it with the final three 6000-12000 grit pads. After the final pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I was able to polish out much of the damage to the stem. Most of crazing was on the surface so most of it is gone as well. The amber Bakelite polished up really well and almost glowed. That part of the restoration went well and the stem looked new and would look good on the finished pipe bowl.

I set the stem aside and rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the smooth finish, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers and wiped it off with a soft cloth. I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the wheel to polish it. It really began to have a deep shine in the briar. The rich reds in the briar and the brown stain really looked good at this point in the process. I took some photos of the bowl to mark the progress in the restoration. I decided to leave the small nicks in the bowl surface as marks of character rather than damage the original finish by sanding them all out. I polished the bowl and rim top using the micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the rim down after each pad with a damp cotton pad. When I finished the polishing I wiped it down a final time. I used some Rub’n Buff European Gold to touch up the GFB stamp on the left side of the shank. I applied it to the stamp with a cotton swab and worked it into the stamp. I repeated the process until the coverage was good. I wiped it off and buffed the shank with a cotton pad.I put the stem back on the bowl and worked the pipe over on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond to polish the bowl and shank. I lightly buffed the stem to raise the gloss on the Bakelite. I gave the bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax and the stem multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax. I buffed the entire pipe 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 below. The rich reddish brown stain on the bulldog shaped bowl works well with the amber gloss of the Baklite stem. This old GFB pipe has a nice mix of grain and now that it is restored it has lots of life in it. It is pipes like this that I wish could speak and tell their story. I would love to know the length and breadth of its journey around the world from France to the US and now to Canada. I guess though I will have to be happy adding my own story to the ongoing saga of this old pipe. Thanks for looking.

 

Restoring a Custombilt Standard 302 Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

Those of you that collect Tracy Mincer made pipes know all about the variety of stampings on the pipes that he made. They go from Custom-Bilt, Custom-bilt, Custombilt, Doodler and even those named after himself. His pipes are unique and the Custom-Bilt pipes (no matter how you spell the name) that he made are immediately recognizable. Their chunky Rhodesian or Bulldog/Bull moose shape along with the unique worm trail deep rustication and the stubby fit in the hand makes them easy to identify. When Jeff sent me photos of the next pipe that came to the worktable, I was not sure where it fit in the world of this brand. I have read Bill Unger’s opus on the brand so I had a bit of an idea but I wanted to spend time working on the pipe before I narrowed down the period. It has a more refined shape and refined application of the rustication to the bowl. It seemed more controlled and predictable than the other typical Custom-Bilt pipes I have worked on and restored. The stem also had a different feel than the others I have worked on and the amount of briar in the body of the pipe seemed less that what I expect in these pipes. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started to work on it so I could have an idea of what we had in our hands.The pipe appeared to be in decent condition. The finish was dirty but did not look like it was damaged. The bowl had a thinner cake that the others I have been working on lately. There was lava overflow on the top of the rim. I am sure there would be some darkening and possible some burn marks on the inner edge of the beveled rim top. The outer edge appeared to be undamaged. The stem was vulcanite and had a very light oxidation on the top surfaces. There was tooth chatter on both sides of the stem just ahead of the button. The edge of the button also had some tooth wear. The previous owner had put a light bend in the stem in the last 1 inch. To me it did not look right and would need to be straightened.Jeff took two close up photos of the bowl and rim top to show the condition of the pipe when it arrived. The first shows the rim close up and the second shows it in relation to the rest of the bowl. He also included a photo of the underside of the bowl to show the carving and rustication pattern there. The pipe is stamped on the left side and reads Custombilt as one word over Standard. On the right side of the shank it is stamped with a number which I assume identifies the shape – 302.The stem had light oxidation and tooth chatter so it would be a pretty straightforward cleanup as well.I wanted to refresh my memory regarding the time periods the different Custom-Bilt pipes were made so I did a bit of research. I looked first on the Pipephil website to see what information he had on the brand. This is the link: http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-c8.html

Tracy Mincer stopped making Custom-Bilt pipes in the early 1950s. The trademark was successively bought by Leonard Rodgers (1953), Consolidated Cigars (1968) and Wally Frank Co. (early 1970s). The later began to produce again his version of the pipe in 1974 or 1975 at Weber pipe factory (NJ). In 1987, the pipes were made out of the Butz-Choquin factory (France) and then Mexico until the late 1990s. Currently (2010), the Custombilt name is owned by Tobacalera of Spain which is part of Altadis. It is generally admitted (but not proved) pipes stamped “Custom – Bilt” (with the hyphen) are from the Mincer era. The name might have changed from Custom-Bilt to Custombilt (without the hyphen) in 1946.

I also looked on the Pipedia website and found confirmation to the Pipephil information and some additional information. Here’s the link to that article: https://pipedia.org/wiki/Custom-Bilt

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…

Given that information I knew that the pipe was made after 1946 when the name was changed to Custombilt. To me the lack of the characteristic shape and carving pointed to after Mincer lost the company and stopped making the brand. The shape reminds me of several Wally Frank pipes that I have had in the past so I am thinking it was made after they bought the trademark in 1974-1975. It also could be the Weber version of the brand when Hollco Rohr owned it. That is as specific as I can get in identifying the time frame for the manufacture of this pipe. I am pretty certain it is not a Tracy Mincer made pipe so that pushes it to the later 1974-75 dates.

Jeff did a thorough cleanup on the bowl and stem. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the last bit of cake with a Savinelli Fitsall reamer. He cleaned the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs – scrubbing out the mortise as it was very dirty. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil soap and a tooth brush and was able to remove all of the tars and oils built up on the briar. He was able to remove all of the tars and lava on the rim top and left it looking very clean. He soaked the stem in an Oxyclean bath to raise the oxidation to the surface of the vulcanite. When it arrived I took some photos of it to show how it looked before I did the restoration. He did a great job removing the cake in the bowl and the lava on the rim top. The inner edge of the bowl is damaged on the back right side and the left front of the pipe. There were also some burn marks in those spots on the rim surface.The oxidation came to the surface of the stem after the soak in Oxyclean. The tooth chatter is visible on the top and underside near the button. You can also see the light damage on the edge of the button on both sides. I put it in a bath of Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer to soak overnight and work on the vulcanite oxidation.In the morning I removed the stem from the deoxidizer and wiped off the excess deoxidizer from the surface of the stem with a paper towel. I cleaned out the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol to remove any remnants of the bath from that part of the stem. The photos below show the stem after the soak and rub down. The oxidation was pretty much gone and what remained would be easily dealt with. The tooth chatter on the top and underside of the stem is hard to see in the photos, but it is present.I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter on both sides of the stem as well as the oxidation that remained in the angles of the saddle stem.I heated the stem with a heat gun to straighten out the bent end. I liked the straight look on the stem better than the slight tweak that last pipe man had put in it.I polished out the sanding scratches and marks in the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I brought it back to the table and sanded it with the final three 6000-12000 grit pads. After the final pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I sanded out the burn marks on the rim with 220 grit sandpaper to remove them and smooth out the surface. I worked on the inside edge of the rim to bring it back to round. When I was finished I polished the rim top and edge with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I was able to polish out all of the scratches in the rim top and edges. I used a medium brown stain pen to restain the rim and inner edge of the bowl to blend it in with the rest of the bowl. The burn marks are invisible now and the polished rim top looks pristine.I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the nooks and crannies of the rusticated finish, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers and wiped it off with a soft cloth. I buffed the bowl with a horsehair shoe brush to polish it. It really began to have a deep shine in the briar. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I buffed the bowl with a soft cloth to polish away the remaining Restoration Balm. I put the stem back on the bowl and worked the pipe over on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond to polish the bowl and shank. I buffed the bowl with a light touch so as not to get any of the buffing compounds in the grooves of the rustication. I buffed the stem to raise the gloss on the vulcanite. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the entire pipe 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 below. The medium brown stains on the rusticated bulldog shaped bowl works well with the rich black of the vulcanite stem. The polish and the reworking of the stem material left this a beautiful and well-made pipe. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside Diameter: 2 inches, Diameter of the chamber: 3/4 inch. I will be adding this one to the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your collection. It will make a fine addition to the rack. If you are interested email me at slaug@uniserve.com or send me a message on Facebook. Thanks for looking.

New Life for an interesting Tinderbox Noble


Blog by Steve Laug

When this pipe arrived it had the look of an older Shalom pipe from Israel. The shape and style of the stem, the type of briar and the shape of bowl all said to me that it was pipe made by The Shalom Pipe Co. Once I looked over the pipe it was confirmed. It was stamped on the underside of the shank ISRAEL. On the side of the shank it reads The Tinderbox in an arch over Noble. So I was working on a Shalom pipe made for Tinderbox. The Shalom Pipe Factory in Israel was owned by Bernard Hochstein, former CEO of Mastercraft. The Alpha line was made exclusively for export to the United States. They were made in Israel from the 1970s into the 1980s. The Shalom Pipe Company made a lot of shop pipes for local pipe shops in the US. This is one of those pipes.

I am not sure where on his travels Jeff found this old tired pipe but it had a unique shape and look that I liked. It showed promise – the grain on the briar was a mix of cross grain, flame grain and birdseye. There was a chip out of the outer edge of the rim on the right side of the bowl and some light rash on the bowl side. The end of the shank was inset for the stem. It gave the pipe a dressy look. The bowl had a thick cake that had formed a hard lava coat on the rim top. The finish on the bowl was very dirty with a lot of oils and grime ground into the briar. The stem had deep oxidation in the vulcanite and there were very deep tooth marks on both sides near the button. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his clean up on it. He took a close up photo of the rim top and bowl. You can see the thickness of the cake in the bowl and the heavy lava coat on the top. The bowl exterior was also caked with tars and grime around the groove around the top of the bowl. Jeff also took photos of the sides of the bowl to show the condition of the pipe. The first four photos show the damaged area on the top edge of the right side of the bowl. I have circled the damaged areas in red on the photos to highlight the issue. The fifth photo shows the underside of the bowl. The grain is quite beautiful and shows through the grime on the finish. The stamping on the left side of the shank and the underside are very clear. The left side reads The Tinderbox in an arch over Noble as noted above. The underside is stamped Israel next to the shank end.The stem was pitted from the oxidation and it was deep in the surface of the vulcanite. There were visible tooth marks on both the top and underside of the stem as well as on the edges of the button itself.Jeff did his usual thorough clean up on the bowl and stem. He reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and cleaned up the last bit of cake with a Savinelli Fitsall reamer. He cleaned the internals with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs – Spending extra time scrubbing out the mortise as it was very dirty. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil soap and a tooth brush and was able to remove all of the tars and oils built up on the briar. He was able to remove all of the tars and lava on the rim top and leave it looking very clean. He soaked the stem in an Oxyclean bath to raise the oxidation to the surface of the vulcanite.

When it arrived it looked like a different pipe. I was excited to start working on it so I pulled the stem off and put it in a bath of Before & After Pipe Stem Deoxidizer and left it to soak overnight. I totally forgot to take photos before doing this.I remembered in time to take photos of the bowl before I started working on it. It was very clean and would look amazing once it was finished. The shank end had been turned and was inset so that the stem could be inset into the shank giving it a unique and trim look.I filled in the chipped divot on the outer edge of the rim with clear super glue. I layered it into the divot until the edge matched the surrounding areas. I also applied it to the rim top to cover that damaged area. I used the super glue to fill in the road rash on the left side of the bowl below the chipped area.When the repair had dried I sanded the repaired areas with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the rest of the bowl. I was able to blend the chipped area into the surface of the bowl so that it was virtually invisible. I sanded the road rash area with 220 grit sandpaper as well and blended it into the bowl side. I sanded it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads and dry sanding it with 3200-4000 grit pads. I stained the sanded areas with a dark brown stain pen to match it to the rest of the stain on the briar. I hand buffed it with a soft cloth to raise a shine.I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the smooth finish, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers and wiped it off with a soft cloth. I buffed the bowl on the wheel with Blue Diamond to raise the shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. In the morning I removed the stem from the deoxidizer and wiped off the excess deoxidizer from the surface of the stem with a paper towel. I cleaned out the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol to remove any remnants of the bath from that part of the stem. The photos below show the stem after the soak and rub down. It was still quite oxidized. The oxidation was significantly less than when I started but it was still present. I decided to work on it without further soaking. It would be a stem that I would have to hand work to get rid of all the oxidation. The tooth marks are visible on the top and underside of the stem in the photos.I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation from inside the tooth marks, reshape the button on both sides and wiped down those areas with alcohol to remove the sanding dust. I painted the tooth marks with the flame of a Bic lighter to lift them as much as possible before repairing them. I filled in the tooth divots with black super glue and sprayed them with accelerator to speed the drying time. Once the repairs were dry I sanded them with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the stem. The first two photos below show the repairs after I first sanded them. The third and fourth photos show the stem after I had sanded the repaired areas to match the surface of the stem. I polished out the sanding scratches and marks in the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding it with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I brought it back to the table and sanded it with the final three 6000-12000 grit pads. After the final pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I put the stem back on the bowl and worked the pipe over on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond to polish the bowl and shank. I buffed the stem to raise the gloss on the vulcanite. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the entire pipe 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 below. The medium brown stain on the cauldron shaped bowl works well with the rich black of the vulcanite stem. This is a unique, beautiful and well-made pipe. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Diameter of the chamber: 7/8 inches. I will be adding this one to the rebornpipes store shortly if you are interested in adding it to your collection. It will make a fine addition to the rack. If you are interested email me at slaug@uniserve.com or send me a message on Facebook. Thanks for looking.

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS: How do I strip a finish from a pipe?


Blog by Steve Laug

I have been asked how to strip a finish from a pipe more times than I can tell you. So this Answers to Questions blog is written to talk about how I remove the finish from a pipe. On first glance this seems like a very easy thing to do. You just need to sand the bowl until the finish is removed correct? That answer is certainly describes one method that has been used with success. But there are other ways to do the job that are less intrusive and less damaging to the bowl and shank. When sanding the pipe it is easy to damage the stamping and modify the shape. Both of these are undesirable in restored pipe. So how do I go about doing the job? I want to take time to present the options for removing finishes. I will differentiate between smooth, rusticated and sandblast bowls in the process of explaining each method. (I know that opinion varies on each of these coats and I only speak from my personal tastes and experience.)

Removing stain from the briar/wood bowl.
1. Removing stain from a smooth finish is actually quite straight forward. You need to understand that once you remove the stain you may well reveal more issues – fills, flaws and less than perfect briar. You have to be okay with taking that chance because you never know what you will find under the stain. To carefully observe what is underneath the stain coat I wipe the bowl down with isopropyl alcohol. I find that the alcohol makes the stain more transparent and blends the colours together in a way that is much more conducive to seeing the grain. Wiping off the stain may well reveal fills underneath the stain. They will need to be dealt with but that does not bother me too much. I really like a more transparent stain so it is worth the extra effort.

If I want to strip the stain from the bowl I wipe it down with acetone. Some have used fingernail polish remover which contains acetone and this works very well. However, I like to use a product that contains 100% acetone that I buy in the nail polish removal area of my local pharmacy. Acetone strips the finish back to almost bare briar. Repeating the process will bring more and more of the stain to the surface of the briar. Once the pipe is clean it can be restained and polished with micromesh sanding pads and/or a buffing wheel.

2. Removing stain from a rusticated or sandblast finish is different from removing it from a smooth finish. Alcohol works very well but needs to be almost washed over the bowl. I have used an alcohol bath to remove the finish. I fill an airtight container with isopropyl alcohol and drop the bowl into the bath overnight or at least for 3-4 hours. I find that it removes the finish very well from both sandblast and rusticated bowls. If you are reticent to soak the bowl, remember the isopropyl alcohol I use is 99% alcohol and evaporates very quickly. It does not stay in the briar. Besides that, you will be thoroughly cleaning the pipe afterwards.

You can also wipe the outside of the bowl down with very wet cotton pads that are almost dripping alcohol. It has the same effect. Remember you want the alcohol to reach down into the grooves, nooks and crannies of the finish. An interesting effect can be obtained by merely wiping down the high spots on the finish and leave the depths untouched. You can then restain it with a contrasting colour and get some beautiful finishes.

Removing shellac from the briar bowl.
1. Shellac is a shiny top coat that is often applied by a pipe maker or manufacturer to give a pipe a permanent shine. It is much easier to remove than the other topcoats that follow. On a smooth finish, it is very simple. Wipe the bowl down with isopropyl alcohol on a cotton pad. I repeat until the shine is dull once the bowl dries. I touch up the shiny spots with more alcohol. If you want to restain the pipe afterwards then you can wipe it down with acetone instead of alcohol. Both do the job but acetone also strips more of stain coat than alcohol. I finish the pipe with several coats of carnauba wax buffed to a shine with a clean buffing pad.

2. Removing shellac from a rusticated or sandblast finish is done in exactly the same way as removing stain from this finish spelled out above. I use either an alcohol bath or a very wet cloth of alcohol and wipe the finish down. Both work very well as they work deep in the grooves and nooks and crannies of the finish. The idea for me is to remove the shiny coat because to be honest I really don’t like it. I have had it come off on my hands when the pipe heats up. Therefore, the shellac coat has to go.

Removing varnish from the briar bowl.
1. Varnish is more resistant to alcohol than the other top coats I have talked about so far. For smooth finished pipes, I tend to use acetone on cotton pads to remove the varnish finish off. It takes some scrubbing to remove it but it will come off. I scrub the bowl until there is no more shine once it dries. Check carefully in the junction of the bowl and shank and in the stamping on the shank as the varnish in those spots can be very stubborn. Wipe down the end of the shank as it is often varnished. I don’t worry about using acetone on the exterior of a pipe as it also evaporates very quickly into the air leaving the bowl dry. Once the finish is flat, it can be waxed and buffed.

2. Removing varnish from a rusticated or sandblast finish is harder. I use a brass bristle wire brush (it has soft bristles and is available in auto parts stores or Walmart type stores). I work over the entire bowl, carefully working around the stamping and any smooth portions. I find that the soft brass bristles loosen the varnish in the grooves and crevices of the finish. I wipe it down afterwards with acetone on a cotton pad making sure to get the acetone deep into the grooves. Sometimes I have to repeat the process to remove all of the ‘offending’ varnish. Once it is gone I wax the bowl with Conservator’s Wax and polish it with a horsehair shoe brush. I find the method works well for me.

Removing lacquer from the briar bowl.
1. Removing lacquer from a smooth finished bowl is quite straightforward. I have removed it quite easily with both lacquer thinner and with acetone. It comes off quite easily and without a lot of fuss. I have found that lacquer has to be scrubbed slightly harder than the varnish coat because of its resilience but it does come off. I use cotton pads to apply the thinner or acetone to the finish and scrub it until it is gone. I find that the makeup removal pads available at most drug stores or pharmacy work really well. They are white so the finish shows up well on the pad as it is removed.

2. Removing it from a rusticated or sandblast finish is harder. It is like the process I use to remove varnish coats. I begin by using a brass bristle wire brush (it has soft bristles and is available in auto parts stores or Walmart type stores) to work over the finish and try to loosen things. I work carefully around the stamping and any smooth portions. The soft brass bristles loosen the lacquer in the grooves and crevices of the finish as I methodically work them over with the brush. I wipe it down afterwards with acetone on a cotton pad making sure to get the acetone deep into the grooves. Often I repeat the process to remove all of the lacquer from the bowl. Afterwards I wax the bowl with Conservator’s Wax and polish it with a horsehair shoe brush. This method has worked over time as I have fine tuned it.

Removing urethane products from the briar bowl.
I have to say that I find this finish the hardest to remove from pipes. I do not even pick up rusticated or sandblast pipes that have been coated with urethane products. I am hesitant even to take on smooth finished pipes. I really don’t like the product on pipes. It is recognizable in that it is a shiny and plastic looking coating that comes in varying thicknesses. It goes by a variety of names – Varathane, Urethane, Polyurethane but all have the same resistance to both alcohol and acetone. The finish seems to be impervious to all attempts to break through with these products. I know others have used a paint stripping product to remove this finish but I really don’t like using this stripper product. The chemicals in the stripper require a lot of ventilation and are really hard on my hands so I try to avoid them.

In place of using the stripper I have resorted to my own method with some degree of success. Sometimes I question the worth or value of doing this when there are so many really good pipes out there that I can work on without having to deal with urethane. But when I do have to, I break through the shine with either a brass bristle wire brush or with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper. Once I have broken through the top of the finish I can wipe it down with acetone and have limited success. It really is a matter of sanding or wire brushing and wiping it down – repeatedly until the finish is gone. I have seen folks sand off the coat but I find that if I can strip it there are less scratches to deal with in the refinishing process. Best case scenario when I find a urethane coated pipe is I clean it up the best I can and give it away.

Removing paint from the briar bowl.
Next to a urethane finish painted finishes is next on my list of dislikes for finishes on pipes. I do not like painted finishes. I actually avoid purchasing them because I have learned the hard way that they are impossible to bring back to the kind of finish I like on a pipe. If there are dents and chips in the finish they are impossible to repair or touch up. I have tried almost every kind of paint out there and not been able to get a match or if I get close, the minute pipe is lit and heated the repairs bubble.

Others have taken a different tactic and sand the paint off the rims and stain the rim to give the painted pipe a bit of contrast look. But to be honest I really don’t like the look. To deal with my own irritation I have resorted to stripping the bowl of all of its paint. I have used a variety of methods to remove paint. I have sanded the bowl down to remove the finish. I have used a paint stripper but I have spoken about my dislike of that above. I think that at times sanding the bowl down is the best choice. It is up to you whether you sacrifice the stamping in the sanding process or whether you strip that area. I have had limited success breaking the shine and wiping the paint down with acetone. It seems that once the seal is broken the acetone does the job but it is really labour intensive.

To top it off once the painted finish is removed I have found that the paint hid a multitude of flaws in the briar that have been filled and masked by the paint coat. It is generally a disappointment to me after all the work on the briar to get to that point. Instead, if I am left with a damaged painted pipe I generally rusticate it and thus remove the issue. I know that the solution may not be acceptable to all of you but it is what I do with this problem.

Conclusion: You can tell from the processes that I have developed to remove top coats from briar pipes that I really do not like them. I like the briar to breathe as I found that without the various top finishes the pipe smokes cooler. I like to finish my pipes with carnauba wax for smooth finishes and with Conservator’s Wax on rusticated or sandblast finishes. When I buy a new pipe this is one of the first things I look for. It is not a deal breaker but the shape has to be one I really like and want before I buy it. Then when I get home the first thing I do before smoking it is to remove the top coat and wax the bowl.

On estate pipe purchases I note which sellers on eBay give the bowls a coat of varnish or worse yet urethane and refuse to purchase pipe from them. Too often, I have bought pipes that have had the varnish coat slopped over the grime on the bowl and even into the bowl itself. It is easier just having to deal with that added issue. When it is a part of the original finish, that is another story and I address it as it comes. When I buy from antique malls and dealers, I specifically talk to them about not putting any shiny coats on the pipes they sell. It may make them look better to sell but it really is an old used pipe so why wreck it with these ministrations.

I think that is it for now. I hope that this series of Answers to Questions blogs is providing information that you find useful. If you have other methods for the various things that I am posting please feel free to comment or contact me. I am well aware that in each case these are my own opinions and that they are not shared by all. I raise a pipe to each of you who enjoy this hobby of ours. Cheers.

Rode Hard & Put Away Wet – MLC Redmanol French Briar Bent Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

This older MLC bent billiard is a turn of the 20th century pipe. According to Pipedia, (https://pipedia.org/wiki/M._Linkman_%26_Co) the initials stand for M. Linkman Company which was thought to mean Mary Linkman Company. They were a Chicago based company that produced both briars and meerschaums. The company was named for the mother of the same Linkman who branded pipes under that same name and then eventually became the Dr. Grabow pipe manufacturer with which we are familiar. Pipephil’s site gave a little more information at this link (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-l4.html). M. Linkman and Co. was established by Louis B. Linkman and August Fisher in 1898. The company closed down in the 1950s and the Dr Grabow branch was sold to Henry Leonard and Thomas Inc. There was also a note that early Linkman’s pipes were stamped MLC in an oval.

If you have followed this blog for a while you have come to know that I love really old pipes and this one fits into that category of pipes. It is stamped MLC in an oval over Redmanol over French Briar on the left side of the shank. There are no other stampings on the pipe. The band is brass and is etched with a pattern of vines and flower around the entire band. The band was a mess on the shank end. It was bent and dented and no longer round. It was loose on the shank and would need to be straightened out before it was reglued. It is a small bent billiard and definitely sporting the wrong stem. It should have had a Redmanol stem to go with the stamping on the shank of the bowl.

I have written a bit more about the MLC brand on several early blogs (https://rebornpipes.com/2016/11/12/an-interesting-the-nuvo-mlc-italian-briar-hidden-in-a-wdc-case/ https://rebornpipes.com/2017/08/17/restoring-a-sad-old-mlc-bent-billiard/).

Jeff took the photos that follow before started the cleanup. You can see from the photos the condition of the pipe. The bowl exterior was absolutely filthy. It is the first time I have seen the lava that usually is on the rim flow over the top and down the sides of the bowl. The lava on the outside edge of the bowl and the thick cake in the bowl made it hard to know what the condition of the rim edges. The incorrect stem and the condition of the pipe told me that it was someone’s favourite smoker and when the old stem broke or wore out a convenient replacement was stuck in the shank and it continued to be smoked. The next photos of the bowl, rim and the flow of lava down the outside of the bowl shows how filthy this pipe was before Jeff started his clean up. The bowl is scratched and nicked but even that damage is hard to assess given the condition of the pipe. If you look closely you can see the MLC oval on the next photo of the shank. Below that it reads Redmanol over  French Briar. You can see the tars that have built up on the shank and pushed the band toward the end of the shank. It really was a dirty pipe. The photo of the bottom of the bowl and shank show more of the worn condition of the briar.The next three photos show the condition of the end of the band. It was in rough shape. As the band was pushed off the shank end because of the tars the end that extended beyond the briar of the shank was bent and damaged.The last photo Jeff took showed the condition of the stem. I was not particularly concerned with the stem as I was planning on replacing it with a fitted stem. If I used it in the future I would clean it up.I reread the blogs on the MLC pipes that I had restored previously to refresh the information. Now I was ready to see what I could do with this old pipe. It is really nice working on clean pipes. I have done enough repairs recently that have required me to ream and clean them that I have a greater appreciation for how nice it is to have this done for me. Thanks Jeff for your work and the way it makes my part a bit easier. He worked his usual magic in cleaning up this messy pipe. I really wondered what would lie beneath all of the grime and tars. Jeff reamed it with a PipNet reamer and cleaned up the remnants with a Savinelli Fitsall pipe knife. He scrubbed out the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He spent quite a bit of time scrubbing the exterior of the bowl, rim cap and shank with a tooth brush and Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the build up. He rinsed it under running water. It took a lot of scrubbing to get it free of the tars but it worked well. He dried it off with a soft cloth. Once the grime was removed it was clear that the finish underneath was in rough shape. The briar was quite nice with a mix of straight and birdseye grain around the bowl and shank. I took photos of the pipe to show its condition before I started my work on it. Jeff had done a miracle in removing the thick cake, cleaning the lava on the rim and sides of the bowl. The inner edge was in pretty  decent shape as was the outer one. I was happy to see the condition. There was however a darkening on the rim top and all around the bowl coming down the sides about ¼ inch. At first I thought that it might have been left behind by a rim cap of some sort but there were no small nail holes in the briar on the sides of the bowl. I think that actually it is what is left behind by the greasy hands of the pipe man and the lava that had flowed down the bowl sides.He was also able to remove much of the grime around the band on the shank and leave the stamping undamaged.I removed the stem and carefully slid the band off the shank. I wanted to clean up the end of the shank with alcohol and sandpaper. I also want to smooth out the back edges of the band and see if I could make it smooth and useable once again. I heated the end of an awl/ice pick and pressed it against the damaged areas of the band. The brass was quite thin so it was really quite workable. I was able to remove all of the damaged areas but one that was a compressed area on the bottom side. It would be hidden on the underside of the shank once it was glued back in place.I scrubbed the shank end and the dark area with acetone to remove more of the grime that was on the surface of the briar. I was able to reduce quite a bit of the buildup around the top of the bowl and the rim top with this method. I sanded the end of the shank to smooth it out. I used a dental spatula to spread the all-purpose glue around the shank. I pressed the band back on the shank with the small damaged spot on the underside.I took a photo of the end of the shank to show that the band fit tight on the shank and was even with the shank end. You can see the damaged area on the underside of the shank on the right side of the photo.I looked through my can of stems because I remembered having a bent Redmanol stem that I had picked up somewhere along the way. Sure enough it was there. It was slightly larger in diameter than the shank of the pipe so it would need to be sanded to fit nicely on the shank. It also had a push stem on it that would need to be removed and replaced with a normal tenon. Both of those were relatively easy jobs. I was anxious to get moving on the stem so of course I forgot to take photos of the stem with the meerschaum push tenon. It was loose so I unscrewed it from the stem. I had a small threaded Delrin tenon with the threads that were close to the same and threaded it into the airway on the stem. It worked well so I unscrewed it and glued it in place in the stem. The photos below show the new tenon on the stem.The tenon fit well in the mortise. The fit against end of the shank was nice. I sanded it to remove the excess material and reduce the diameter of the stem to match the shank using 220 grit sandpaper. In the photos below it is getting close to a nice fit. What you can’t see in the photos is that the nice, rich, red colour of the Redmanol lightened with sanding to shades of blood orange. I could not start over so I decided to keep sanding until the fit was correct. At first I did not like the effect on the Redmanol and I was disappointed by the colour shift. Looking at the stem from the drilled airway before I put the tenon in place and the flat end of the stem it appeared that the red was solid all the way through the material so when the oranges and yellows started to show up I was a bit frustrated. Now as I look at it I have to say it is growing on me. It reminds of the Popsicles that we used to by when I was a kid. I stopped sanding the bowl and put the stem on the shank to get a couple of photos so I could look at it on the screen and get the effect. It is almost like flame… kind of a nice variation. It is interesting to see the fine red line between the band and the stem – the flat end still is an even red. I don’t quite understand it but I am resolved to live with it. I am going to stain the bowl so that should also add to the variations of colour on this old pipe.I decided to try to bleach out the darkening on the rim top and first ¼ inch of the bowl all the way around. I wiped it down with bleach on a cotton pad and left it on the dark area to do its work. It worked better on the left side than the right.I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain to try to blend in the dark rim stains. I applied the stain, flamed it and repeated the process. Once it dried I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on cotton pads to make it more transparent and let the grain shine through.  In the process some of the nicks in the briar showed up more clearly. I decided not to fill them in but to leave them as war wounds on this old timer. They tell a story that I wish the pipe could tell us. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads. I started polishing with 3200-4000 grit pads and wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth. I continued to polish with 6000-12000 grit pads and wiped it down after each pad. I hand buffed it with a soft cloth. The dark ring around the top of the bowl is still visible but less than before. The rim looks good. To further blend the darkened top portion of the bowl with the rest of the pipe I gave the bowl a contrast coat of Danish Oil Cherry Stain. I applied it by hand and rubbed it off and repeated the process to get a good smooth coat.I wiped the stain coat off and hand buffed the pipe lightly. The photos below show what the pipe is looking like at this point in the process. The right side still shows darker than the left at top edge of the bowl. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. After the final 12000 grit pad I gave it a final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel to polish the briar. I gave the pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The newly variegated Redmanol stem did not too bad with the old pipe. It shines like polished horn and the flow of the colours worked with the colours on the bowl. The way the colours shifted on the parts worked well together to present a beautiful pipe. The dark rim edge almost looks like the way meerschaum pipes were flumed with a dark edge. The pipe looks fresh and new. Later I will need to give it a bowl coating to protect the bowl inside as there are spidering cracks all around the briar. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. Thanks for looking.