Tag Archives: steaming out dents in briar bowls

Nelson Got Gouged


Blog by Kenneth Lieblich

Sometimes, the most satisfying restorations are the ones that have the most dramatic difference between start and finish. This is the story of one of those. A friend, knowing of my new pipe-restoration hobby, contacted me recently to see if I could ‘clean up’ a family pipe for him. I told him that I would be happy to. He explained that perhaps the pipe once belonged to his grandfather, perhaps to an uncle – he was not really sure. Imagine my shock when he dropped off this little paneled Nelson apple.Oof! My immediate thought was ‘Nelson got gouged’! You want me to clean up this pipe? How about raise this pipe from the dead? Actually, my first order of business was ascertaining the actual brand name. At first, I thought it was ‘Delson’ (or something similar), but, after rubbing chalk on the shank, I could see that it was, in fact, ‘Nelson’.So, I set about disassembling the pipe to see what needed to be done – beyond dealing with the obvious gouges. The insides of the bowl and stem were actually quite clean, but I set about giving them a thorough cleaning nonetheless. Using isopropyl alcohol in combination with Q-tips and pipe cleaners, I then proceeded to clean out the insides of both the shank and stem. I also added some Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the external grime, just for good measure.

I removed the metal band around the shank to discover that, not only had the band corroded, but it had also leached into the wood at the end of the shank.Using oxalic acid, I carefully scrubbed the shank end to remove as much of the staining as possible – and I think it worked quite well.I feared the prospect of having to deal with the scratches, holes, gouges, etc. on the bowl, so I thought I would move on to the stem first. I took a BIC lighter and ‘painted’ the stem with its flame in order to remove the light tooth marks. This was quite successful in raising the dents. Once this process was done, the stem went for a soak in the Before & After Hard Rubber Deoxidizer. This soak caused the oxidation to migrate to the surface. I used 220, 400, and 600 grit wet/dry sandpapers to remove the oxidation from the stem. I then used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to bring out the lovely black lustre on the stem. I also used Obsidian Pipe Stem Oil in between each pad scrubbing. Now, on to the biggest problem of all: the bowl. What were we going to do? No matter what, the wood needed to be stripped and sanded down, and so I set myself to the task. I had a long discussion with Steve about what to do and he suggested that this pipe was a perfect candidate for rustication. I agreed and thought it would be a good experiment for me to try out the process of rusticating a stummel. I approached my friend with the idea and, although he was open to it, I sensed that he would prefer to keep the pipe as close to its original form as possible. So, going back to Steve for advice, he proposed using an iron and a damp cloth to try and raise the scratches. I expected some limited success, but I was stunned at how well it worked. The vast majority of the gouges were lifted. The small number that were not, were easily filled with cyanoacrylate adhesive. Just like the stem, I used all nine Micromesh pads (1,500 through 12,000 grit) to sand everything smooth. A light application of Before & After Restoration Balm brought out the best in the stummel’s grain.

A new metal band was also needed for this pipe. Although I considered the idea of trying to remove the corrosion from the existing band, ultimately this was an exercise in futility. I went to my jar of bands and found one that was less wide than the original, but actually looked better than the original. I sanded and polished the band until it shone like the sun.

Now I had to do something about the distinct lack of rich colour in this pipe. The solution, as always, came from Steve: aniline dye. I cautiously applied a wee bit of Fiebing’s Medium Brown Leather Dye and then applied flame in order to set the colour. Since it is an alcohol-based dye, I as able to lighten the colour by applying my own isopropyl alcohol to the colour.I applied more Before & After Restoration Balm and some Paragon Wax. I polished it by hand with a microfibre cloth and I could not believe how good it looked! This modest pipe had started its time with me as a candidate for the fireplace and ended up as a lovely pipe whose owner will be able to enjoy it for many years to come. The dimensions of the pipe are as follows: length 5¾ inches (14.6 cm); height 1⅜ inches (3.5 cm); bowl diameter 1¼ inches (3.2 cm); chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch (1.9 cm). The weight of the pipe is ¾ of an ounce (or 24 grams of mass).

Thank you very much for reading and, once again, I welcome and encourage your comments.

Easy Cleanup of a M&T Bent Horn Bulldog


Aaron Henson – 7/23/16

I have not been very good at documenting my last few restorations. Once I get into a project I tend to get so focused I forget to take pictures, especially if it’s a repair that is technically challenging or that I have not done before. The most recent example of this was an unsmoked M&T bent bulldog with a horn stem.  Even though it had never been used (it still had the factory purple putty bowl coating) it had a few issues to be addressed from its 40+ years of tumbling around in a drawer.M1When I saw the pipe in the case at the antique store the first thing that caught my eye was the horn stem and I knew I wanted it. In all honesty, I wasn’t one hundred percent sure that it was horn until I got it home. A couple of passes with a 2400 micro mesh pad and a sniff test confirmed my suspicions – it’s the same smell as when you use an emery board on a finger nail. M2I started with a little research into the brand.  The only M&T that I could find was the German pipe maker Müllenbach & Thewald.  They made pipes from 1830 until the 1972.  The company still exists but is solely devoted to mineral mining.  You might think this strange but M&T was known originally for clay pipes. In 1860 they branched into making wood pipes.  A short article on M&T can be found on Pipedia.

I began the restoration by performing triage of the issues to be addressed. The bowl was clean but had a dull finish that was marred with some dents and minor scratches. The factory bowl coating was starting to chip and a there were three small fills on the outside of the bowl that needed to be repaired. A close inspection of the shank revealed a small crack where the aluminum tenon inserted (seen in the picture below). I had assumed the narrow band was original to the pipe but perhaps it had been added to reinforce the shank?  I may never know the answer to that.  All in all the bowl was very good condition.M3The stem too was in almost “like new” condition.   A few scratches but the button was well define and, of course, no tooth chatter. The aluminum tenon was a little rough around the edges but the fit to the shank was fine.

I started by applying a thin coat of mineral oil on the stem. This seemed to ‘hydrate’ the horn and give some bite to the micro mesh pads. I worked through the 1500 to 12000 pads stopping to apply oil as the horn dried out. The button was quite large and the edges sharp, a bit more than I like. But I kept it original and only slightly smoothed the corners while polishing. I smoothed up the edges of the tenon and set the stem aside.

The first order of business was the cracked shank. Using a 1/64 drill bit, I drilled a hole at the end of the crack to stop its spread then filled the crack with clear supper glue.  Then I picked out the three putty fills and using a super glue and briar dust mixture, refilled the pits. Once cured I sanded the repair smooth.M4I steamed the dents out of the briar with a clothes iron applied to a wet cloth wrapped around the stummel – keeping away from the stampings and fingers.  I sanded the entire stummel up to the 3200 micro mesh then wipe down with alcohol before I stained.  In this case I tried to match the original color with several coats of different browns aniline dyes.

Before reassembling I decide to remove the factory bowl coat and leave it bare briar. Then I wiped the whole outside of the pipe with mineral oil and set it aside for twelve hours before taking to the buffer.  The oil seems to hydrate the briar and brings out a nice shine when waxed.  I first buff with red diamond, wipe off the residue with a soft cotton cloth then apply three coats of carnauba wax giving the pipe a little rest between each coat.

The bent bulldog is one of my favorite shapes and I love the horn stem.  I’m not sure when I will get around to breaking it in.  It might just stay unsmoked for a while.M5 M6 M7 M8