Tag Archives: Stripping a varnish finish with acetone

Another one from the ongoing “Hunt for a Cooler, Dry Smoke” – a Highlander System Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe came to us off eBay back on 02/05/17 from York Haven, Pennsylvania, USA. It came in a Trapwell pipe box with all of the accompanying papers and pipe sock. The Trapwell is a bit of a legend from WWII years. The brand was made by D & P Pipe Works, owned by D. P. Levitas and located in Sparta, Alleghany County, North Carolina close to the population of Mountain Laurel in the area. Later, this company changed its name to Sparta Pipe Works and still later to Sparta Industries. I was excited to be working on a pipe made in that era by them. Here are some photos of the box that pipe came in. When Jeff opened the box he was suspicious. The pipe was not an apple and the contraption in the shank and stem pictured on the box cover was missing. All of the paperwork was there and the pipe sock as well. But the was not a Trapwell. It had a Germanic H stamped in silver on the top of the briar. On the left side of the shank it read Highlander [over] Selected Briar. There was nothing else stamped on the pipe. It was not a Trapwell and it was briar. It also came with a pair of stems – a swirled reddish one and a black one. Neither one of them appeared to have been used. The bowl had a thin cake on the walls and some lava on the top so it had been smoked. Jeff removed it from the box and took photos of the bowl with both the reddish swirled stem and the black one. It was quite a pretty looking pipe with either stem.Jeff took photos of the rim top and bowl to show the condition of the bowl and top. You can see the cake that is present and the light lava coat. The stems both appear to be unused. It makes me wonder how the previous pipeman smoked it. Jeff took a photo of the heel of the bowl that showed a flaw in the briar. He took photos of the stamping on the left side and top of the shank. They are clear and readable.I turned to Pipedia to see if I could get any information on this Highlander Filter Pipe. Here is the only link that was there (https://pipedia.org/wiki/American_Pipe_Brands_%26_Makers_G_-_H). The only information available was that the Highlander pipe was a brand of Altamira Company. I did a bit more searching to see if I cold find any more information. There was nothing specific to be found. With that I decided it was time to work on the pipe.

Jeff had done a great job cleaning up the pipe as usual. He reamed the pipe with a PipNet reamer and cut back the cake back to the bare briar. He cleaned up the walls with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the interior of the bowl and shank with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to remove the tars and oils. He scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to remove the grime from the finish and the light lava on the rim top. There appears to be a shiny varnish coat on the bowl that is spotty on the bottom of the shank and bowl. He scrubbed the inside of the stem with alcohol and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the stem with Soft Scrub and then soaked it in Before & After Deoxidizer. He washed it off with warm water to remove the Deoxidizer. The pipe looked far better when it arrived.  I took some close up photos of the rim top and also of the stem surface. I wanted to show how well it had cleaned up. The rim top photo and edges look very good. I also took close up photos of the stems to show how clean they both were. There was no chatter or tooth marks on either stem.I took photos of the stamping on the left and topside of the shank. You can see that it is stamped as noted above. It is clear and readable.    I took the pipe apart and took a photo of the pipe and the two stems. The tenon on each stem is Delrin and drilled to fit a Medico filter. It is a good looking pipe and has some great mixed grain around the sides of the bowl. I started my work on the pipe by removing the varnish coat on the briar with acetone and cotton pads. I was careful to not remove or damage the H stamp on the top of the shank. I was able to clean up the damaged area on the heel of the bowl. It was good to see the grain in the briar come alive with the wash. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads –dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and using a damp cloth after each pad. I worked some Before & After Restoration Balm into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I let the balm sit for 15 minutes and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. This pipe was not too bad to clean up. The stems were in excellent condition with no marks of chatter. The Highlander Selected Briar Billiard turned out to be quite a nice looking pipe. It is a filter pipe but the look is very good. I put the pipe back together and buffed it with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I hand buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine and hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. It is fun to see what the polished reddish, brown bowl looks like with the polished mottled red stem and the second black one. The material is a mixture of plastic and rubber I believe but it is hard to tell. This Classic looking Highlander Selected Briar Billiard feels great in my hand. It is light and well balanced. Have a look at it with the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 ½ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼  inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 29 grams/1.02 oz. It is a beautiful pipe and one that will be on the American Pipe Makers section of the rebornpipes store soon. If you are interested in adding it to your collection let me know. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this pipe. Thanks to each of you who are reading this blog.

A Gift for a US Coast Guard Man – A Carved Bearded Sailor, ‘Ole Crusty’

Blog by Dal Stanton

Tina commissioned the restoration of 3 pipes and one Churchwarden project by repurposing a bowl.  Her purpose was to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria while at the same time purchasing great vintage pipes that would be gifted to special men in her life.  The first of these pipes, the Lindbergh Select Poker, which came out beautifully, is for Tina’s brother who served as a naval aviator and flew on P3 airplanes flying over different bodies of water to do reconnaissance missions and who has many stories of his adventures.  I’m now looking at the Carved Bearded Sailor – my first try at restoring a sculpted face.  There are no identifying marks on the pipe, and I’ve searched closely with a magnifying glass.  I acquired the Carved Bearded Sailor from a Lot I snagged on French eBay, so my assumption is that this pipe has a French origin – it’s a good guess!  When Tina saw this pipe, she immediately took it in hand and said she knew who would receive this pipe – her older brother who started in the Army but later spent 25 years in the US Coast Guard as a helicopter pilot involved in such activities as law enforcement (boarding and inspecting ships) and search and rescue – aiding vessels in trouble on the high seas regardless of the flags they flew.  Here are the pictures I took of the Carved Bearded Sailor commissioned for the ‘Coastie’ on my work table: I love the old crusty look of the sailor’s face encased in this carving.  What I like most of all is that it is a nice carving, but the thick varnish makes it look like a tourist trinket pipe to me.  It is apparent that the steward who had this pipe smoked him well!  The moderate cake buildup in the chamber and the signs of lava and grime on the ‘cap’ – we don’t have a rim with this guy, we have a cap! – point to a pipe that was used and not put on a shelf to collect dust.  He’s got some history, but I can’t say how much and I’m guessing that his COM is France.  The only thing I’m not excited about with this crusty sailor pipe is the varnished finish – I’m not a fan of a heavy varnish, candy apple gloss finishes.  The challenge would be, if I were to remove the varnish as part of the restoration, and dive into polishing and buffing the nooks and crannies of the carving, it might prove to be a daunting task.  Another factor would be to maintain the roughness that gives it a rustic uniqueness.  The carving is not a porcelain doll smoothness – its crusty like the sailor depicted!  I want to clean up the carving but not lose the rustic, roughness that is to me, what makes it special.  The stem has some oxidation and tooth chatter but not much of an issue.

I begin the restoration of the Carved Bearded Sailor by wetting a pipe cleaner with isopropyl 95% and cleaning the airway of the stem.  I then place the stem in a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer with other pipes in The Pipe Steward queue.After several hours, I take the Sailor’s stem out and let the Before & After Deoxidizer drain off the stem.  I then run another pipe cleaner wetted with alcohol through the stem’s airway to clean it of the Deoxidizer.  I also wipe off the raised oxidation with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  The Deoxidizer does a good job.I then apply paraffin oil to the stem to begin revitalizing the vulcanite.I haven’t yet decided how exactly I will approach the restoration of the stummel, but I decide to simply clean it the normal way first and see how things look.  The chamber is small, only 5/8 inches wide, and this is too small for the Pipnet Reaming heads.  So, I employ the Savinelli Fitsall tool to scrape the chamber walls in close quarters. As I scrape the chamber walls I find that there’s a good bit of cake build-up in the chamber.  After a while, I notice that there appears to be no draft hole at the bottom of the chamber.  Hmmm, not sure about this!  I try to push a pipe cleaner through the airway via the mortise and it is a no go.  I take a sharp dental probe and dig a bit at the floor of the chamber and a bit of cake crumbles revealing a hole, not where I was looking for it, but more toward the bottom.  I keep digging and another hole appears – forward of the other.  With the help of a stiff wire, I’m able to punch through the blockage allowing me to insert a pipe cleaner.  I take a picture to show what I’m seeing.  At first, I thought that what I was seeing was a cavity underneath what appears now to be a bridge of carbon cake between the two holes.  I continue to dig with the dental probe, and it appears that what I’m looking at is metal.  It appears to be a metal insert with two holes allowing air to pass through.  Interesting – I’ve never seen this before.  I’m not able to see anything through the mortise that looks like metal.I continue the cleanup of the chamber by sanding the chamber with 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  I then wipe the chamber with a cotton cloth wetted with alcohol to clean the carbon dust. It seems that it is a 2-holed metal insert – like an internal stinger, which pushes my thinking more toward a French invention, but still only guessing.  Other than the interesting two-holed insert, the chamber appears to be in good shape with no heating problems.Next, to clean the external surface of the carving, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and scrub with a cotton pad and bristled tooth brush to get into the curves, nooks and crannies of the carving, I use as well a bristled brass wire brush to work on the lava and discoloration on the cap. I then rinse the stummel with cool tap water.  The surface of the carving cleans up nicely as well as the rim/cap. Next, the internal cleaning.  Using pipe cleaners and cotton buds wetted with isopropyl 95%, I go to work. The design of the internal metal insert is interesting.  The airflow is pulled downwardly to the two holes that are on the floor of the chamber, not where the draft hole is normally located. I scrape the sides of the mortise with a dental spatula to excavate tars and oils.  I also employ a drill bit to reach into the chamber created by the metal insert below the chamber floor.  I hand turn the drill bit which pulls the crud out.  The internals are pretty nasty overall.  Eventually, buds begin to surface cleaner until I’m satisfied that the internals are clean.  I arrive at a decision point.  The question is, do I keep the thick varnish finish and work with it or do I remove it and figure out a different approach to the external surface – natural briar or dye?  In principle, I don’t like the shiny finish that varnish produces.  Why? You’re not looking at the shine of the briar, but the shine produced by the varnish.  I can understand, with a carving like this, it’s an easier and quicker way to produce a ‘finished’ shine, but to me it’s mediocre. The other problem is that when the finish is thicker, it can chip and leave portals to the raw wood which will obviously be a different hue and texture – mess.  I see evidence of this as I scan the carved surface.  In the end, my dislike of mediocrity when restoring pipes took over and I decide to renew finish on the Sailor so that hopefully, it doesn’t lose its quaint roughness but cleans and sharpens it so that the carving is enhanced not stifled!  So my plan is ratified taking some last pictures of the candy apple finish! To start over, I put the stummel in an acetone soak to remove all the old finish from the craggy and carved surface.  I leave it in the soak overnight.  Time to turn out the lights.The next day, I fish ‘Old Crusty’ out of the acetone soak.  The finish is partially removed but most is loosened.  I use 000 steel wool in combination with the brass wire brush to remove the residual varnish from the stummel surface. Parts of the old finish I scrape off with my thumb nail and it’s like congealed meat fat.  I use a dental probe as well to dig into the crevices to remove dirt and gummed up varnish.  Finally, most of the removal is completed – all that I can see of the old varnish is removed.  I take a picture to show the progress to this point.Next, I continue cleaning and clearing the surface by focusing the steel wool on areas of smooth briar to sand and buff up.  I aim for the flat surfaces to tease out the grain – which I find are many!  The obvious smooth surface is the cap and bill, but there are also the eyebrows, the nose and nose bridge, the cheek tops, the mustache, the top of the beard, the cheeks…  As I buff with the 000 steel wool on these surfaces, the carved face begins to emerge as a more distinct image.  I reach into all the major crevasses as well.  I’m please with the results of this stage.  I take pictures at the conclusion of the steel wool buffing sanding and shaping. After using the steel wool, I sand with the micromesh pads.  I start by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.   With each phase, I take a picture offering a different perspective of the face that emerges through the micromesh process.  I watch amazed! Before switching to the stem, I come to another decision point.  I had been thinking that I would apply a dye – probably a light Fiebing’s Saddle Tan hue to bring out more pop. After completing the micromesh pad process, the briar of this stummel needs no help with ‘pop’!  I decide to stay with the natural grain that has emerged and to deepen it, I apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the carved stummel.  I’m anxious to see how the Balm acts on the carved surface – how it will enhance the carved face.  I put some Balm on my fingers and work it into the briar.  It takes some effort and the help of a cotton bud and a toothpick to push the Balm into the crevasses of the sculpting.  After applying the Balm throughout and working it in thoroughly, after about 20 minutes, I use a cotton pad to start wiping off the excess Balm and again, reaching into the crevasses to remove Balm.  The Balm eventually dissolves and is absorbed.  I finish by buffing the stummel with a microfiber cloth.  Wow!  The Balm did a great job deepening the tone of the briar.  I’m already loving the profound difference between the buffed sheen and texture of natural briar and the candy apple varnish finish that I started with.Letting Ole Crusty rest awhile, I now turn to the stem.  The stem is generally in good shape – negligible tooth impact is found on the bit.  The button has one compression that will be easily addressed with sanding.  The only thing I notice that is not what I like is that the entire stem has a very rough texture to it.  The Before & After Deoxidizer did a great job removing the oxidation, but the resulting texture needs addressing.I use 240 grade paper to sand out the minor bit and button issues.  I also sand the entire stem to remove the roughness.  To avoid shouldering the stem shank facing, I use a plastic disk on the end to butt up against as I sand.I follow the 240 grade by wet sanding the entire stem with 600 grade paper and then using 0000 steel wool.I move straight away to sanding with micromesh pads by wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  After each set of three pads I apply Obsidian Oil to rejuvenate the vulcanite. Now, on the homestretch.  I reunite stem and stummel and mount the Dremel with a cotton cloth buffing wheel and I apply Blue Diamond compound to stem and stummel.  In order not to load the crevasses with compound which would be a pure nightmare to clean out, I keep the buffing wheel on the high briar points where there is smoother briar.  What I discover though, after starting the Blue Diamond application, is that the troughs of the carving are wide enough that I leave behind no compound as I work the wheel in these areas.  I think that using a Dremel with it’s miniature buffing wheels, gives me an edge in situations like these.  After finishing application of the compound, I transition to applying carnauba wax in the same way.  I mount another cotton cloth wheel to the Dremel, maintain a speed of about 40% full power and apply the wax over stem and carved stummel. After application of the wax, I give the pipe a rigorous hand-buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the intricate shine and to make sure there’s no wax caked up in the crevasses.

When I began this project, I had no idea what I would be able to do to improve the presentation of the carved sailor’s face.  I wanted to retain the rustic, rough feel but bring out more of the grain and contours of the face carving.  This is my first restoration of a carved figure and I’m very pleased with the huge difference in the quality of the carved presentation by uncovering it or freeing it from the thick candy apple glaze that entrapped it.  The minute appearances of briar grain have been teased out and now highlight the various facial components of the carving in a satisfying and attractive way.  In my view, the restoration took the Carved Bearded Sailor from a trinket-like feel to an expression of artistic beauty and creativity.  I started calling the bearded sailor, ‘Ole Crusty’, during the process of getting to know him better and helping him come out!  I think the name fits the image of the old bearded sailor who was weathered by life, that the carver was seeking to capture and bring to life in this pipe.  Tina commissioned this pipe for her brother, a Coast Guard man, and I trust that she and he will like ‘Ole Crusty’ as well I do!  Tina commissioned this pipe from the For “Pipe Dreamers” Only! collection and will have the first opportunity to acquire ‘Ole Crusty’ from The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!  I begin with a Before & After of Ole Crusty:

A Windy Perpetual Drysmoker Restored

Blog by Steve Laug

One of the contributors to rebornpipes,Troy Wilburn gifted me with a couple of pipes not long ago. Today I worked on the first of them – an interestingly odd old pipe the likes of which I have never seen. It is stamped on the left side of the shank WINDY over PERPETUAL over DRYSMOKER and on the right side of the shank IMPORTED BRIAR. Around the end of the shank on what I assume is the bottom of the pipe it is stamped ITALY.Dry1



Dry4 This odd pipe is a bit of a mystery to me in terms of how it is smoked. You may laugh at that and say, “Put the end in your mouth and fire it up.” However it is a little more complicated. This particular pipe has a screw on wooden cap that sits on the “top” of the bowl if looked at the way I took the photos above. Held this way the stamping is right side up. On the other end of the bowl is what is like a normal windcap with five airholes in it. It is screwed into the bowl. When held with the windcap as the “top” the stamping is upside down. I can find nothing online that gives a hint to how it is to be smoked.Dry5 When I took it apart it was clear to me how the previous owner had smoked it. There was a cake on the walls of the bowl. There was a cake on the threaded five hole windcap. There was not any cake of darkening on the flat threaded cap. So the pipe had been smoked with the windcap facing downward and the stamping in the correct position. The bowl had been lit from the windcap end and then the cap put back in place and the bowl turned over and smoked with the coal on the bottom… I shall have to experiment with that to see what I can tell after smoking it myself.

The pipe was quite dirty. Tobacco shards were around the threads in both the top and the bottom of the bowl. There was a light cake that was crumbly in the bowl. The airway was reduced in size by the tars and cake. The stem was rough and the airway partially blocked. The finish on the briar was crackling and spotty.Dry6 Before cleaning up the pipe I did a quick Google search to see if I could find out any information. I wanted to see if the brand was known and if there was anything on the Pipephil site regarding the stamping. I found just two links to the pipe. One was on the smokingmetal site. The other was a YouTube video that was about a fellow smoking his Windy Perpetual Drysmoker. I did not find it helpful in that it was just a running commentary on the experience rather than information about the brand. The link to the smokingmetal site is here: http://www.smokingmetal.co.uk/pipe.php?page=508
I am quoting the article in full as it is really the only source of information I found.
WINDY – perpetual drysmoker
Appears to be a late 1940’s pipe, briar, which I thought initially should have had an internal bowl which did not appear to be present with this one. Some doubt as to how many parts there should be to this pipe, but see the following comments. The stamping is simply WINDY Perpetual Drysmoker one side of shank and Italy Imported Briar on the other

Sitter pipe. The pipe is just over 5 inches of the bowl to end of bit. Chamber diameter is just over 5/8 inch and depth is over 1 1/2 inch.

I have the following from Stan Wolcott, his are the images as well:

In my travels I recently came across this intriguing pipe on which very little information appears online by Google search. The left side (?) is stamped “Windy Perpetual Drysmoker” and on the right side (?) “Imported Briar/Italy”. The stem has a small round gold medallion on the left side bearing a “R”. Although several similar pipes are pictured online here in the USA and UK, no explanatory information is included with those images. Floyd Norwood of Tennessee, who restored the pipe for me, also had no idea how the pipe was to be smoked. Tony Pringle of the UK, who has one pictured on his website, believes there may be other pieces which are missing from the four present in the images—flat cap, rounded cap with five vent holes (presumably the wind cap) and the pipe bowl and stem. As can be seen from the images, the flat cap has female threads and screws into the bottom (?) onto male threads on the bowl. The wind cap has male threads and screws into the top (?) of the bowl. I have placed the question marks in parentheses following the terms top, bottom, right and left, since I’m not even sure whether the flat cap is intended to be the bottom. Can someone out there enlighten me and the NASPC readership about this “mystery pipe”, its manufacturer and the proper way of smoking it?

This guy seems to have mastered it ..http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1Zk3qxuce0

The “Perpetual” part of the name seems to come from the ability to actually load more tobacco from the bottom of the pipe whilst still alight and of course the dottle etc. gets burnt as the smoking progresses. Rather ingenious. There are at least two possible for makers from the logo, REGIS and EMPIRE STATE and nothing seems to be known of these either.

Tony Pringle of smokingmetal then includes the following photos of the pipe. There is no doubt that it is the same pipe that I have. There are a few variations between the two but the overall design is the same. He shows photos of the pipe as a whole, taken apart and of the stamping.Dry7


Dry9 The pipe that Troy gave me is in much better condition and also is stamped slightly different. The left side of the shank is the same but the right side only reads IMPORTED BRIAR on mine. The ITALY stamping runs around the shank at the junction of the shank and stem. It is stamped on what would be the bottom side if the cap is on the bottom. The stem on the one I have does not have the gold logo or seal.Dry10 I used a cotton swab and alcohol to scrub the threads on the bowl and the two lids. There was a lot of debris in both sets of threads.Dry11

Dry12 I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and the second cutting head as it was a perfect fit for the diameter of the bowl. I took the cake back to bare wood.Dry13

Dry14 With the major debris cleaned away with the alcohol and cotton swabs I used a toothbrush to scrub the threads on both the top and bottom of the bowl and also on the two caps.Dry15 With the interior cleaned out and the threads cleaned I put some Vaseline on the threads of the caps and put the pipe back together. I used some acetone on cotton pads to remove the spotty and broken finish on the bowl. I was amazed at the grain that was underneath the finish. There were no fills and just a few small sandpits.Dry16



Dry19 With the finish removed the pipe was beginning to look like new. All that was left was to clean up the stem and then buff the two of them together. Look closely at the grain on the bowl and caps. I really find this a beautiful pipe.Dry20


Dry22 I put a plastic washer on the tenon between the shank and the stem so I could sand the stem in place in the shank and keep the shoulders of the stem from rounding. I sanded the tooth chatter on the top and bottom of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and then with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge. I went on to sand it with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and then rubbing it down with Obsidian Oil. One this that was very interesting about this stem was the quality of the vulcanite. The sanding dust was absolutely black rather than the usual brown. It left black streaks on the micromesh.Dry23


Dry25 I dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit pads and then rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil after the 4000 grit pad and the 12,000 grit pad.Dry26

Dry27 I buffed the pipe and stem on the buffer using Blue Diamond Plastic Polish on the wheel to polish the bowl and the stem. I gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect the finish and then buffed it with a clean, flannel buff to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. Thanks Troy for the strange yet beautiful pipe. I enjoyed working on this one and will also enjoy experimenting with how to smoke it!Dry28







Dry35 Thanks Troy and thanks for looking!