Blog by Paresh Deshpande
Having completed the Dunhill Bruyere that once was in the trust of Farida’s Dad; I wanted to work on something easy as I was to proceed on leave to my home in the next 15 days leaving behind my tools and paraphernalia that I use for restoring pipes. I rummaged through the pile of 50 odd pipes that Abha, my wife, had cleaned up and sent me and from that lot, I chose this inherited Stanwell as my next project on the premise that it would be a simple ‘refurbishing only’ task.
This large straight sandblasted Billiard pipe is stamped on the smooth underside of the shank from the foot towards the shank end as “STANWELL” in an arch over “REGD. No 969-48” followed on the right by “HAND MADE” over “MADE IN DENMARK” in block capital letters followed by shape code/ model number “82R” towards the shank end. The Silver Crowned S adorns the left side of the vulcanite stem.There is adequately detailed and informative material available on both pipedia.org and pipephil.eu on the brand; however, I was keener to know the exact dating and correlate the pipe details with the shape code. The late Basil Stevens was considered an authority on all things Stanwell and on surfing the net, I came across this site which gives out pointers to dating a Stanwell pipe; here is the link https://www.scribd.com/document/45022903/Stanwell-Dating-Pricing-Information-by-Basil-D-Stevens.
I reproduce the relevant pointers which help in dating the Stanwell on my work table:-
1) Regd. No. stamping discontinued in late 1960s to very early 1970s. This is the Stanwell trade mark registration. The “48” indicates that the registration was made in 1948. (info rec’d from Jorgen Grundtvig, Managing Director, Stanwell A/S).
2) Up until the early 1960s only the top pipes, e.g. “Hand Cut” had the stem/mouth pieces stamped with the Stanwell logo of a crown over “S”.
Next I wanted to ascertain if I could pinpoint this particular shape and model numbered pipe in any catalogs and sure enough, pipedia.org, in one of its offsite links to the catalog from the period 1960-70 does have this same pipe on page 18 under STANWELL GIANTS, here is the link; http://files.homepagemodules.de/b169807/f122t2510p9193n1.pdf
The last bit of curiosity in my mind was to link the model number on my Stanwell to the description of the shape and designer, if possible. Again pipedia.org has a section on “Stanwell Shape Numbers and Designers” and sure enough, 82R finds a mention as large billiard, taper bit, but no mention of designer! (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Stanwell_Shape_Numbers_and_Designers).
Thus from the above, it is amply evident that the pipe now on my work table is from the 1960s and is from the “GIANT” line offering from Stanwell!!
Now on to restoring this Stanwell Giant billiard with a taper bit……..
INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
This large sandblasted billiard pipe has a nice heft and nicely fills the hand and like most of the pipes from my inheritance; this too has a thick layer of cake in the chamber with overflow of lava on the rim top. The inner rim edge appears sans any damage and would be confirmed once the chamber has been reamed. The condition of the walls of the chamber can be commented upon once the cake has been taken down to the bare briar. However, the external surface of the stummel feels and looks solid and hence I do not foresee any major issues surprising me later. The ghost smells are very strong in the chamber.As is commonly seen on sandblasted pipes with some serious age on them, the crevices are always filled with dust, dirt, oils, tars and grime from all the years of smoking and storage. This one is no exception to this observation. The grooves of the sandblast are filled with dust while the small smooth bottom of the shank which bears the stamping is covered in dust and grime. The fact that the textured patterns of the rustications are dusty and filled with dirt is accentuated more due to the contrast of dark and medium brown stains on the stummel and the shank. The briar looks lifeless and bone dry and has taken on black dull hues. The mortise is full of oils, tars and gunk and air flow is restricted. The stem is heavily oxidized with a couple of deep tooth indentations on both the upper and lower stem surface in the bite zone. The lip edges on either surface are without any serious damage. The stem logo of the letter ‘S’ with a crown on top is crisp and deep.INITIAL CLEANING BY ABHA…
The initial cleaning on this pipe was done by Abha, my wife (she has cleaned up around 40-50 pipes and this is one of the lot that had reached me for further restoration). She reamed out the complete cake and further smoothed out the chamber walls with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. She further cleaned out the internals of the shank with pipe cleaners, alcohol and cotton buds. She followed the internal cleaning of the shank with external cleaning of the stummel using Murphy’s Oil soap and hard bristled tooth brush and dried it with paper napkins and cotton cloth.
Next she cleaned out the internals of the stem air way and immersed it in “Before and After Deoxidizer” solution along with the stem of other pipes in line for restoration. Once the stem had soaked overnight, she cleaned the stem under running warm water and scrubbed the raised oxidation from the stem surface using Scotch Brite pad. She further removed the oxidation by scrubbing the stem with 0000 grade steel wool and applied a little olive oil to rehydrate the stem.
ONCE THE PIPE IS ON MY WORK TABLE…
The cleaned up pipe presents a very clear picture of what needs to be done to restore this pipe to a decent and smoke worthy condition. I really cannot thank my wife, Abha, enough for all the help and support that she extends me in my pursuance of this hobby. I proceed to carry out my appreciation of the work that needs to be done on this pipe to restore it.
As with all the cleaned pipes that Abha packs, there was a note in the zip lock pouch with issues that she had observed in the pipe. The first point was that she was not happy with the way the stummel had cleaned up and that the inner rim edge appears to be charred in the 6 o’clock direction. She also mentioned about heat fissures along the walls of the chamber. Here are the pictures of the pipe as I had received. To be honest, the pipe had cleaned up nicely. The sandblasted rim top surface does show some accumulation of hardened overflowed lava which should be easy to dislodge with the use of brass wired brush and Murphy’s Oil soap.
The second point was that the chamber has developed heat fissures (marked in red arrows). Close scrutiny of the chamber walls made me realize that there is still a very thin layer of cake in the chamber and it is my experience that this gives an appearance of heat fissures! Only after the cake has been completely removed will I be able to confirm presence of heat fissures or otherwise. The outer rim edge is in good condition. I concur with Abha’s assessment of a likely charred inner edge in the 6 o’clock direction (marked in yellow circle). The ghost smells are still all pervasive. This would necessitate a more invasive internal cleaning of the shank and the chamber. The draught hole is dead center and at the bottom of the heel and leads me to believe that this pipe should be a fantastic smoke. The stummel surface has cleaned up nicely with the intricate sandblast patterns on full display. While Jeff and Steve had been to my place, the importance of preserving stampings on a pipe was discussed in detail and Abha diligently works to preserve the same on all the pipes that she cleans up. This pipe is no exception with stampings clear and crisply preserved. The dark brown hues intermingled with black lends this pipe an attractive appearance which will be further enhanced after a nice polish. The mortise is nice and clean with the airway completely cleaned out and with a full and smooth draw.Now that Abha had rid the stem of all oxidation, the damage to the stem was all too apparent, not severe in this case. A couple of deep tooth marks could be seen on upper stem surface while minor bite marks are seen on the lower surface. The button edge on either surface is in decent condition with a clean airway and horizontal slot opening! These should be easy to address.THE PROCESS
Firstly, I heat the surface of the stem with the flame of a lighter to raise the tooth indentations to the surface and follow it up with a sanding with a piece of folded 220 grit sand paper. This helps to even out the raised surface, address minor tooth chatter and also remove the deep seated oxidation. I wiped the stem with a cotton swab and alcohol to remove the raised oxidation and the resulting sanding dust. The tooth indentations, though greatly reduced, are still prominent. I need to address this issue. Next I spot fill in these tooth indentations with clear superglue and set the stem aside to cure.While the stem fills were curing, I moved ahead with addressing the issue of heat fissures to the chamber walls. With my fabricated small knife, I scrap the walls and removed all the remaining cake from the chamber and followed it up by sanding the walls with a folded piece of 180 grade sandpaper. Once I had reached the bare briar wood, I wiped the chamber walls with a cotton swab and alcohol to remove all the residual carbon dust. I was pleased that the chamber walls are sans any heat lines/ fissures.I gently scraped away the charred briar from the rim inner edge till I reached solid briar. Even though the rim deformation is not as pronounced as seen on Farida’s Dad’s Dunhill, it is still a eyesore. I need to address this issue.Prior to moving ahead with the rim repairs, I decided to address the strong ghost smells from the chamber. To eliminate the ghost smells from the pipe, I decided to treat it with salt and alcohol. I do not use Kosher salt as it is not readily available here and if available, it’s very expensive. I use cotton balls which is an at par substitute as I have realized over the last year or so. I draw out a wick from the cotton and along with a folded regular pipe cleaner; insert it in to the mortise and through the draught hole in the chamber. Thereafter, I pack the chamber with cotton balls to about quarter of an inch below the rim inner edge. I soak the cotton balls with isopropyl alcohol up to the brim. About half an hour later, the level of alcohol has gone down, having being absorbed by the cotton. I top it up once again and set it aside overnight. By next afternoon, the cotton and alcohol has drawn out all the remaining oils and tars from the chamber and mortise and the cotton and alcohol had fulfilled its intended task. I removed the cotton balls and ran pipe cleaners through the mortise to clean out all the loosened tars and gunk. The chamber now smells clean and fresh. I set the stummel to dry out naturally. With the internals of the stummel now clean, I cleaned the external surface using a hard bristled toothbrush and Murphy’s Oil Soap. I diligently scrubbed the stummel to remove all the dust and dirt that was embedded in the crevices of the sandblast. With a soft bristled brass wired brush, I removed the overflowing lava from the rim top surface and cleaned the internals of the shank with a shank brush and dish washing soap to remove what little crud remained in the shank. I rinsed it under running tap water and wiped the stummel dry with an absorbent soft cotton cloth. With the rim top cleaned of all the overflowing lava, the extent of damage can now be clearly appreciated. I had reached that point in restoration where I had to decide on the way ahead for rim repairs. I could either just let it be as topping would eliminate the sandblast patterns from the rim top (would be very tedious to replicate) or I could go for a complete rebuild. I decided on the latter as topping would significantly increase my work. Using a worn out piece of 150 grit sand paper, I completely remove the charred briar from the outer and inner rim edges in preparation for rebuilding the rim top. Using the layering technique (layer of glue followed by briar dust pressed on to this layer and repeating till the fill is over and above the intact rim surface), I completely rebuild the rim top and set the stummel aside for the fills to harden. Once the rim top surface fill had hardened, I mounted a coarse 150 grit sanding drum on to my hand held rotary tool and setting a speed at half, I carefully sanded off the excess fill from the rim top surface and the rim inner edge till I had achieved a rough match with the intact portion of the rim top and inner edge. With a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper, I worked the inner rim to a crisp and perfectly rounded edge. I gently scrubbed the rim top surface with a brass bristled brush to clean the surface as well as create patterns on the rim top. I further stained the rim repairs with a dark brown stain pen. I was very pleased with the rim surface rebuild at this stage in restoration. I set the stummel aside and worked the stem. The stem fills had cured nicely and using a flat head needle file, I sanded the fill to achieve a rough match with the surrounding stem surface. I further sanded the stem surface with a folded piece of 220 and 320 grit sand papers to further blend in the repairs and followed it with wet sanding the entire stem with 1500 to 12000 grade micromesh pads. I wiped the stem with a moist cloth to remove the dust and monitored the progress being made after every three grit pads. The stem polished up nicely and had a rich deep black shine to it. I applied a little Extra Virgin Olive oil to rehydrate the vulcanite and set the stem aside.Next, I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar with my finger tips, working it deep in to the sandblasts and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful sandblast patterns on full display. The contrast of the dark browns of the raised sandblast with the dark black of the rest of the stummel added an interesting dimension to the appearance of the stummel. I further buffed it with a horse hair brush. The last picture is of the rim top that had the refreshed fill and even the most discerning reader will be hard pressed to accurately pin point the fill. I refreshed the stem stamping with a white correction pen. The end result shows a perfectly refreshed stem logo.To complete the restoration, I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and applied several coats of carnauba wax. I finished the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further and remove any residual wax from in between the sandblasts. The finished pipe looks amazingly beautiful and is now ready for its long second innings with me. I only wish it could share with me its life story of the past years while I enjoy smoking my favorite Virginia blend in it or maybe an English blend!! P.S. There was only one more issue that needed to be addressed and one that could not be ignored, being a functional issue. After I had rebuild the small portion of the rim inner edge, it was necessary to prevent this part (though very unlikely being too high on the rim edge) from coming in to contact with the burning tobacco. I addressed this by mixing activated charcoal and plain yogurt to a thicker consistency, just enough that it would spread easily and applied it evenly all along the chamber walls after inserting a folded pipe cleaner through the draught hole to keep it open. Once dry and set, this will not only protect the walls but also aid in faster build up of cake.I wish to thank each one for sparing their valuable time to read through this write up.