Blog by Paresh Deshpande
One of the pipes in my Mumbai Bonanza lot which intrigued me no end was a small Acorn shaped pipe from the Danish pipe maker, Stanwell. I prefer large pipes and so this pipe was always being relegated to the next-in-line project status. Finally I decided to break the shackles of resistance and brought it to my work table as the next project. It’s a Stanwell pipe with shape code # 7472.
I was fortunate enough to have heeded the advice of my dear friend and mentor, Steve, and struck a deal with a junk collector from Mumbai. He did not know what he was selling and I did not know what I was buying as we reside in different cities!! The argument that Mr. Steve presented was that if not anything, I shall at least have some spares and this was logical. I struck a deal and here are pictures of the pipes that I received in this lot. This lot contains some very nice collectible pipes, a few well known brands and some mediocre brands. Overall, with seven Dunhill pipes, a Preben Holm #1 FH, a couple of “Made in England” Pete System pipes, a couple of Charatan’s Belvedere, Custom-Bilt, Stanwell and other assorted pipes, I would say that I had struck a decent haul!!! This is indeed my “Mumbai Bonanza”.
This, then, is the 13th pipe that I decided to work on from this find and is an Acorn shaped pipe indicated in blue colored arrow in the picture below. It is stamped on the bottom middle half of the smooth surface of the shank as “# 7472” over “MADE IN DENMARK”. Towards the shank end, it is stamped as “STANWELL” in its trademark inverted arch in block capital letters. The stem bears a plain “S” logo on the left side of the stem.Now coming to the research of this brand and line/ model in specific, I referred to pipedia.org and as expected there is an extensive research on this pipe and even has a separate page on Stanwell Shape numbers and Designers, a study compiled by Stanwell collector and an undisputed authority on these pipes, Basil Stevens. However, there is nothing on this particular shape and number, in fact, this shape and number does not find any mention. I even visited rebornpipes.com in the hope that I would be able to unravel the mystery shrouding this pipe, but to no avail.
The only input I received was from Steve was that this is most likely a Sixten Ivarsson carved pipe, but nothing to date and confirm. Any reader who has any information or knowledge about this pipe is earnestly requested to share it with us on rebornpipes!
INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The stummel has beautiful sandblast patterns on the uniquely shaped stummel with a short neck and a nice flow to the shape profile of the pipe. The sandblasted stummel is covered in dirt and grime of yesteryear. This should clean up nicely. The stummel surface is solid with no damage to the external surface. The dark browns of the raised sandblast contrast beautifully with the black stain of rest of the stummel. A thick layer of cake can be seen in the chamber. The sandblasted thin and inward curving rim top surface is covered in thick overflow of lava, dirt, dust and grime. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber and rim top surface will be known once the cake has been taken down to bare briar and the rim top crud has been scraped off completely. The inner rim condition appears to be in good condition with no burn/ charred surfaces. Even the outer rim edge appears to be in a decent condition. Only once the stummel has been thoroughly cleaned that I can be sure of my initial appreciation. In spite of the thick cake, the chamber odor is, surprisingly, not strong and should be addressed once the cake has been taken down to the bare briar and the shank internals have been thoroughly cleaned. The draught hole is dead center at the bottom of the chamber and should be a great smoker. The shank end and the mortise are blocked with dried gunk, adversely affecting the airflow.The delicate vulcanite saddle stem is heavily oxidized and has calcification deposits towards the button end. There are deep tooth marks on the lower and upper stem surface and appears that the previous owner has literally chomped on the bite zone of the stem. The button edges also have bite marks, in fact, they are badly worn out. The horizontal slot shows accumulated oils and tars.Along with the stems of other pipes in line for restoration, I immersed the stem of this Stanwell #7472 in a mix of one part Hydrogen Peroxide 20% with one part hot water after I ran a couple of pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol through the stem air way. A couple of hours later, the stem oxidation on all these stems were raised to the surface. After I had fished out the stem from the Hydrogen Peroxide bath, I scrubbed it with Magiclean sponge and followed it up with a wipe of cotton swab and alcohol. I further scrubbed the stem surface with 0000 grade steel wool. The loosened and superficial layer of oxidation was easily removed and revealed the condition of the stem. It was not as horrifying as I had imagined it to be during the initial inspection. There are deep bite marks in both the upper and lower bite zone. The bite marks are deep enough to cause significant thinning of the surface and complete disfigurement of the button edges. The deeper oxidation that was pulled to the surface would require more abrasive techniques.THE PROCESS
I started with cleaning of the stummel as I was keen to know the condition of the walls of the chamber. With size 1 head followed by head size 2 of a PipNet pipe reamer, I took the cake down to bare briar. Using a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper, I sand out the last traces of cake and expose the walls of the chamber. I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol to remove the carbon dust left behind by all the reaming and sanding process. Once the chamber walls were cleaned out, I saw very minor and superficial beginnings of heat fissures/ pits all along the chamber walls. I shall address this issue by a simple bowl coat. I used my smaller of the two fabricated knife to gently scrap away at the overflow over the rim top surface while being careful not to damage the sandblast on the rim top. I was pleased to find the inner and outer edge of the rim intact and without any burn or char marks. Next, I cleaned out the internals of the shank and mortise. Using my dental tool, I scraped out all the dried oils, tars and gunk that had accumulated in the shank airway and mortise. The amount of crud that was scrapped out and the condition of the pipe cleaners that were used leaves no surprise why air flow through it was restricted. I finished the cleaning by running a few pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I also wiped the shank with cotton buds and alcohol. With this cleaning, all old smells in the pipe are history. The pipe now smells clean and fresh.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. Once I had wiped the stummel dry with paper towels and soft cotton cloth, I thought I saw a fill on the left side of the bowl, near the bowl and shank joint. It was perfectly matched and blended with the sandblast on the stummel and stained in dark as seen on other surfaces of the stummel. It is marked in yellow circle. My fears were confirmed when I probed it with a dental pick. Very carefully and painstakingly, I completely removed the old fill with a pointed dental pick. I cleaned the fill of all the debris of old fill material, wiped it with alcohol and refreshed the fill with a mix of clear CA superglue and briar dust and set it aside to cure overnight.By next day, the fill was hard and well set. With a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper, I worked the fill till I had achieved a nice blend with the shape and contours of the stummel. It turned out much better than I had anticipated. With a soft wire brass brush, I again cleaned out all the debris that lodged itself in the sandblast surface as a result of all the sanding and use of briar dust.Next, I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar with my finger tips, work 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 adds an interesting dimension to the appearance of the stummel. I further buffed it with a horse hair brush. The last picture is of the side that had the refreshed fill and even the most discerning reader will be hard pressed to accurately pin point the fill. With the stummel nearly completed, I turned my attention to the stem repairs. I masked the stem logo “S” with a whitener pen to protect it during the sanding process. I cleaned the internals of the stem using hard and normal bristled pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. With a pointed dental tool, I scraped out the entire dried gunk from the slot. I addressed the deeper oxidation by sanding the entire stem with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. Once the oxidation was completely removed, I wiped the surface clean with a cotton swab and alcohol. I flamed the damaged button edge and the nicks and dents with the flame of a lighter. This helps the vulcanite to rise to the surface as it has an inherent property to regain its original shape when heated. At this stage, I noticed that the bite zone on the upper stem surface has a crack which extends over to the button. This was further accentuated due to heating with the flame of a lighter. Continuing with the stem repair, I inserted a triangulated index card covered in transparent tape in to the slot. The tape prevents the mix of superglue and charcoal from sticking to the index card. I mixed superglue and activated charcoal powder and generously applied it over the bite zone, including over the button and set it aside to cure. Once the mix had cured, I removed the index card from the slot.Using a flat head needle file, I reshaped the button and roughly matched the fills with the rest of the stem surface. However, things rarely happen as you want them to happen and in this case, a few air pockets were revealed. With a permanent black marker I darkened the air pockets and spot filled them with clear superglue. Once the superglue had cured (I had set it aside overnight), I sanded the fills with a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper. I followed it up by further sanding the stem with 320, 600 and 800 grit sand papers to achieve a perfect blending of the fills with the stem surface and a crisp button edge on either side of the stem.Using the micromesh pads, I completed the polishing cycle by wet sanding the surface with 1500 to 3200 girt pads. I had read that White diamond polish is between 3600 and 4000 grit of micromesh pads and best used between these two. I decided to give this a try to see if there is any difference in the final stem finish. I mount a fresh cotton buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and apply white diamond polish and buffed the stem. I wiped the stem with microfiber cloth and go through the remaining pads, dry sanding with 4000 to 12000 grit pads. The stem looks great with the fills nicely matched with the rest of the surface. I rub a little quantity of Extra Virgin Olive oil in to the stem surface and set it aside to be absorbed by the vulcanite. To complete the restoration, I mount 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 reamed and sanded the chamber walls, I had observed very minor and superficial beginnings of heat fissures/ pits all along the chamber walls. I addressed this by mixing activated charcoal and plain yogurt to a thicker consistency, just enough that I 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.There are two more pending write ups which I shall be tackling before I undertake to restore a pipe which my dear friend and mentor, Steve, had sent me about a year back with the intention of providing me an opportunity to test my own skills. I wish to thank each one for sparing their valuable time to read through and once again request you for any inputs or advice on dating and designer of this pipe.