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Restoring a Beat up “Mini Woodart” Pipe #856


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

The fourth and the last pipe that I worked on simultaneously was another pipe that I had purchased on eBay along with the Rolex vest pipe. I was attracted to its vase like shape and through all the dirt and grime some beautiful bird’s eye grains peeked and beckoned me for help. The shank end flares out and the chunky, short and broad, 1/4 bent saddle stem with a conical tenon end makes for a very interesting appearance to the overall pipe. The appearance of this beauty was beat, the rim appeared to be damaged and there were a few prominent fills which appeared like blistered wounds. But, nevertheless, it is one handsome, more like cute, looking pipe!!!!

The stummel surface boasted of beautiful swirls of grains interspersed with bird’s eye along the sides of the stummel and shank, while contrasting cross grains adorn the top and bottom of the shank extending to the back and bottom of the stummel. The left hand of the shank is stamped as “MINI” over “WOODART” over “FRANCE”. The bottom of the flared out shank end bears the model number “# 856”. The saddle top of the stem bears the logo of “W” in an oval. This stem logo was revealed later after the stem had been soaked in hydrogen peroxide solution.I could not find any information about this brand on Pipedia.com or rebornpipes or anywhere on the internet. However Pipephil.eu does make a mention of this brand and even has a picture of a pipe with similar stampings (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-w3.html#woodart), but no further information was available!

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
As I had noted earlier, this little pipe was in a sorry and battered state. There is not a single surface on the stummel which does not have either a dent or a fill or a chipped surface. The stummel is covered in oils, tars, sticky grime and dust, through which one can make out the beautiful grains all round. The overflow of lava has not only covered the area between the narrow top portion and rest of the bowl, but has spilled over to the back of the bowl and accumulated in the area where the shank meets the bowl. There are a large number of dents, dings and scratches prominently seen on the edge below the neck of the vase like stummel shape. There are a few major fills in the stummel, the most prominent ones being to the right side on the shank. These will need to be addressed. The bowl is narrow and tapers down towards the draught hole. The chamber has a thin layer of cake, but the appearance indicates that there may be issues with the walls of the chamber. The mortise is full of oils, tars and gunk and restricts air flow. The rim top is where maximum damage is seen through the overflowing lava. The inner and outer edge of the rim is peppered with dings, dents and chips, a result of striking the rim edge against a hard surface while cleaning after a smoke. The bowl is completely out of round with undefined rim edges. This will have to be taken care of without losing too much of briar estate and will be a challenge to achieve desired results. The vulcanite stem is so heavily oxidized that it appears brown in color!!!! The upper surface of the stem has very light tooth chatter towards the button end while the lower surface has a few deep bite marks with damage to the lip edge. This issue should not be a major headache to address. The tenon is filled with oils and tars, restricting flow of air through the airway.THE PROCESS
I started this project by flaming both the surfaces of the stem with a Bic lighter to raise the tooth chatter and bite marks to the surface. I followed it by immersing the stem in to the solution of hydrogen peroxide and hot water. Within 20 minutes the stem color changed to greenish brown, a sign indicating that the oxidation has been pulled to the surface. This also revealed the stem logo of “W” encircled in an oval, on the top surface.After the oxidation was raised to the surface, I removed the stem and wiped it with paper napkins. I ran a couple of pipe cleaners through the airway to clean it. Once I was satisfied that the internals of the stem are clean, with a 180 grit paper, I sand the stem surface to get rid of the raised oxidation. I followed it by filling the deeper bite marks and lip damage with a mixture of activated charcoal and CA superglue and set it aside to cure. While the stem was curing, I worked on the stummel. The small size of the chamber dictated that I could only use my smaller sized fabricated knife to remove as much cake as possible. I further sand the chamber walls with a piece of 150 grit sand paper wound on a thin but dry bamboo twig (which are abundant in the jungles in this part of my country) attached with a rubber band. This was followed by 220 and 400 grit sand paper and now we have a smooth and even surface on the walls of the chamber. This process exposed the walls of the chamber and confirmed my initial apprehensions. The chamber walls show a number of heat fissures on both the front wall as well as above the draught hole. I shall address this issue at the end by coating the chamber wall with a mixture of activated charcoal and yogurt. I wiped the insides of the chamber with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I cleaned the mortise using hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners, dental spatula and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. I continued with the cleaning of the chamber by giving it a salt and alcohol treatment. I packed the chamber, just below the rim, with cotton balls. I stretched a cotton ball into a thick wick, tapering at one end, and inserted it in to the shank and pushed it as far inside as I could using a straightened paper clip. I find that cotton balls work just fine in drawing out all the tars and smells from the mortise and the bowl. I topped the bowl with alcohol again after 20 minutes when the alcohol level had gone down and set it aside overnight for the cotton and alcohol to do its intended job. The next day, 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 internals of the stummel is now clean and fresh. I set the stummel aside to dry out. While the stummel was drying, I worked the stem. I covered the stamping on the stem with whitener using a whitener pen. The filling of charcoal and CA superglue had cured and using a needle file, I sand the filling to match the surface of the stem. For a better blending, I further sanded the entire stem with 220 followed by 400 and 800 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the sanding marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with alcohol after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil. The internals of the stem was cleaned out using alcohol and pipe cleaners. The finished stem is shown below. With a sharp, thin knife I removed the entire old and loosened fills and cleaned the surface with alcohol. These are now ready to take on a fresh fill. Now, it was the turn of the stummel to get cleaned up. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the stummel, cleaning the surface thoroughly. I cleaned the rim too. However, the grime, oils and tars covering the stummel and rim surface was so stubborn that I could not get rid of it completely.  The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. I mixed briar dust and CA superglue and filled all the major gashes while the minor ones were filled with clear CA superglue. I set the stummel aside to dry the filling.After the filling had dried out overnight, I sand the filling with a flat head needle file to match the surface of the stummel.Before sanding the entire stummel to match the fills and clean the stubborn grime, I decided to address the out of round and charred rim top by topping the rim top on a 220 grit sand paper. I was careful not to sand too much to maintain the original profile of the stummel. Topping also helped in reducing the dents and chipping to the outer edge of the rim. The rim top, after topping, looks much better.However, the inner edge profile was still uneven giving the bowl an out of round appearance. Also the outer rim edge had a few dents, chips and scratches. I addressed these issues by creating a bevel on the inner and outer edge of the rim. The results are pleasing to the eye.The issue of damaged rim was addressed to a great extent at this stage. However, the issue of addressing the large number of dent, dings and scratches prominently seen on the edge below the neck of the vase-like stummel shape still remains. I decided to reduce/ eliminate, if possible, these dents and dings by steaming them out. I heated my fabricated knife over the flame of a candle, placed a wet Turkish hand towel over the marked areas and steamed out the dents by placing the heated knife over the towel. Though some dents were still visible, these were greatly reduced when compared to before steaming.Thereafter began the arduous, painstaking and time consuming process of matching the repairs by sanding the entire stummel with 220 followed by 400 and 800 grit sand papers. I was able to match all the repairs and dents and dings on the lower edge of the stummel by upward sanding motion while moving up from heal and downward motions while moving down from the rim top. I was satisfied with the appearance of the stummel after this sanding. I wanted to highlight the grains seen and further blend all the repairs carried out to the stummel. To achieve this aim, I sand down the stummel and rim top using micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. The stummel now has a deep shine with grains popping out with magnificent contrast. I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. To finish, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to the Dremel (actually it is not the brand machine, but a local machine which is similar).  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. I then mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine 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.The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the photographs speak for themselves. The beauty, size and shape of this pipe compel me to wonder if this pipe could once have been nestled in the hands of a lovely lady in Paris. If only the pipe could tell the story of its journey till date…Cheers!! PS: – Once I had finished with all the buffing and polishing, only one issue remained to be addressed; heat fissures on the walls of the chamber. I coated the walls of the chamber with a mixture of activated charcoal and yogurt. Once dried, this will speed up the formation of cake and protect the chamber from a burn out.

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Decking out my Grandfather’s Battered Pre-transition Barling # 1354.


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

In one of a first, I had decided to work on four pipes simultaneously. Well, honestly, it was a decision which was forced on me due to extraneous circumstances that I had created for me. It so happened that after having discussed with my mentor, Mr. Steve, I decided to work on a John Bessai creation from my Grandfather’s collection. As I was turning the John Bessai in my hands, I felt that there were not very many major issues involved in its restoration and the small Barling’s, also from my old man’s collection, appeared to be a straight slam dunk of a restoration. Thus, I decided to work on both simultaneously, which appeared doable. However, things turned in to a challenge when I was just surfing YouTube on pipe restoration topics. In one of the videos, Hydrogen Peroxide and water solution was used to raise the oxidation to the surface and subsequent cleaning of the same was a breeze. I decided to try out this method and in order to make max use of the solution; I dunked stems of two more pipes in to it. Now I have four pipes in line to restore. I can still manage the restorations; it is the write ups that are a huge challenge for me as Mr. Steve will vouch for the delayed submissions.

The Barling’s Make pipe on my work table is a quaint little billiards with beautiful and very tightly packed birdseye grains on either side of the bowl and shank, extending over to more than half of the front of the stummel. Equally tightly packed cross grains are seen on the front left and back of the bowl and also on the upper and bottom surface of the shank. It is stamped on the left side of the shank as “BARLING’S” in an arch with block capital letters over “MAKE” in a straight line over the numeral “1354”. The right side of the shank bears the spaced out stamp “S M” towards the bowl shank junction. The vulcanite saddle stem bears the trademark Barling stamped in cross on the upper surface of the saddle and “Barling” over “Design” in a cursive hand on the lower surface of the saddle.  Even though there are quite a few Barling’s in grandfather’s collection, this beauty is the first of the Barling’s that I am trying to restore. To know more about the brand, the lines offered by the maker and attempt to date this pipe, I visited Pipedia which has a wealth of neatly cataloged heading-wise information on Barling’s pipes. Here is the link and the snippets of relevant information that I picked up https://pipedia.org/wiki/Barling#Model_Numbers:

Model Numbers:

Also according to Tad Gage, the only four-digit number that denotes a Pre-Transition piece begins with “1,” which was used for pipes sold in England. Any other four-digit Barling pipe is a Transitional piece– (Tad Gage in P & T magazine).

Model numbers were occasionally stamped below the logo as early as the late 1920’s.

Other Nomenclature:

The “MADE IN ENGLAND.” stamp was in use in the 1930’s thru 1962. As with all things related to Barling nomenclature there are variations. Sometimes there is no “MADE IN ENGLAND.” stamp. Examples exist with a “MADE IN LONDON” over “ENGLAND” stamp. And, there are examples with “MADE IN ENGLAND” with no period after the word “ENGLAND”.

Size Stampings:

Up to 1926 and possibly beyond, Barling used specific, completely unrelated, model numbers to designate the various sizes of a specific shape. They produced pipes in three sizes, small, medium, and large.  

Barling’s published price lists show that they continued to offer pipes in only three sizes, small, medium, and large until 1941. That’s it, small, medium, and large. So when someone claims that they have a 1930’s EL, EXEL, or other size, they are mistaken.
In 1941 the published range of sizes expanded. Going from the smallest to the largest, they are SS, S, S-M, L, EL, EXEL, and EXEXEL. There is no “G” for giant. Giant pipes, or magnums, which are oversized standard billiards, were not stamped “G” but are commonly identified by collectors as such because they are obviously large relative to even EXEXEL pipes, and carried no size stampings (Gage).

Size stamps were rare before WW2, but we do an example from 1925 that we will discuss later as it is part of a forgotten class of Barling pipes.

Patent Stamps:

In addition to the stampings on the briar, Barling stems had stampings that relate to specific periods. In 1935 Barling received a patent for a stem design that radically improved airflow as well as cooling of the smoke.

Pipes made in 1934-5 may have the words “Reg’d Design” on the underside.

Following the granting of the patent in 1935, Barling stems featured the following patent numbers:

REG’D 98 046 – US patent number – 1936 – 1949 • REG’D 42/8968 – WW2 production – 1942 – 1950 • REG’D 754 068 – WW2 production • Barling Design – 1950 – 1962

 Not all pipes have this stamping on the underside of the stem, but its presence is a good indicator for the period of manufacture, assuming that the stem is original.

Throughout their history Barling continued to innovate in the area of stem and bit design.

From the above information, it is conclusively assumed that this piece is from the Family era/ Pre- transition period and was made somewhere during 1950s to 1960s. The minimalist stampings indicate that this pipe was intended to be sold in the local markets.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The chamber shows a nice even build up of a thick cake which makes it difficult to comment on the condition of the inner walls of the chamber. There is a thick overflow of lava and completely covers the rim top and further spills over on to the stummel surface. The condition of the inner edge of the rim and rim surface will be ascertained only after chamber has been reamed down to its bare briar. The outer rim, however, is damaged and has a number of chips and dents, probably caused due to hitting the bowl against a hard surface to remove the dottle! Criminal, to say the least! The surface of the stummel is covered by the overflowing lava, which in turn has attracted a lot of dirt and grime over a period of time. The stummel surface is peppered with numerous dents and dings, more so towards the heel of the bowl, probably caused due to careless and uncared for storage for the last 40-45 years!!!! It will be a big decision whether to address these dents and dings by abrasive sanding method and loose the patina which has developed on the surface, or let them be. Well, I shall cross the bridge when I reach it. The mortise is surprisingly clean and air flow through it is open and full. The vulcanite stem is heavily scratched, but not oxidized. Some light tooth chatter is seen on both surfaces of the stem towards the lip with one deep bite mark on the upper surface. This issue should not be a major headache to address. The lip edge on both sides is crisp but lightly damage. The quality of vulcanite is good.THE PROCESS
I did not soak the stem of this pipe in the Hydrogen Peroxide solution as I was not sure how it would affect the stamping and so decided to play it safe. I flamed the stem surface of the stem with a Bic lighter to raise the tooth indentations and scratches on the stem. The heat from the flame of Bic lighter causes the vulcanite to expand and regain its natural shape, reducing the marks. The tooth bite marks which were visible after the flaming were filled with a mix of activated charcoal and clear CA superglue and I set it aside to cure overnight. I reamed the chamber with size 1 head of a PipNet reamer and followed it with a size 2 reamer head. To reach the areas where the PipNet reamer could not reach to remove the carbon cake, I used my smaller fabricated knife and scraped out all the remaining cake. I further use a folded piece of 180 grit sandpaper to sand out the last traces of remaining cake and expose the walls of the chamber to ascertain that there are no cracks/ heat fissures. 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. The walls of the chamber were solid with no damage. I gently scraped the rim top surface with a sharp knife to remove the lava overflow. This was followed by cleaning the mortise with cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This further eliminated traces of old smells from previous usage. The old smell was still prevalent, though greatly reduced. To completely eliminate the smell, I decided to resort to alcohol bath. I packed the chamber, just below the rim, with cotton balls. I stretched a cotton ball into a thick wick, tapering at one end, and inserted it in to the shank and pushed it as far inside as I could using a straightened paper clip. I topped the bowl with isopropyl alcohol using a syringe. I know that it is generally a practice to use Kosher salt for this procedure, but since Kosher salt is not easily available here, and when available, it’s very expensive, I use cotton balls. I find that cotton balls work just fine in drawing out all the tars and smells from the mortise and the bowl. I topped the bowl with alcohol again after 20 minutes when the alcohol level had gone down and set it aside overnight for the cotton and alcohol to do its intended job.The next day, 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 internals of the stummel is now clean and fresh. Now, it was the turn of the stummel to get cleaned up. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed the surface of the stummel. I cleaned the rim too. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. I am not very happy the way the rim top appears at this stage with all the charring and uneven inner and outer rim edges. This needs to be addressed. I set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. While the stummel was drying, I worked the stem. I covered the stampings on the stem with whitener using a whitener pen. The filling of charcoal and CA superglue had cured and using a needle file, I sand the filling to match the surface of the stem. For a better blending, I further sanded the entire stem with 220 followed by 400 and 800 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the sanding marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with alcohol after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil. The internals of the stem was cleaned out using alcohol and pipe cleaners. The finished stem is shown below. After cleaning the rim top with Murphy’s oil soap, I had observed that the rim top surface was charred and the inner edge was uneven, presenting a very sorry appearance. I topped the rim on a 220 grit sand paper, checking frequently till I was satisfied that the charred surface was greatly reduced. The inner edge is still uneven, though much better than before topping, it will need to be addressed.Next, I decided to address the dents and dings on the stummel surface and on the rim outer edge. Using a whitener pen, I marked all the major areas with dents and dings as I had decided to leave the minor ones as they were. I heated my fabricated knife over the flame of a candle, placed a wet Turkish hand towel over the marked areas and steamed out the dents by placing the heated knife over the towel. Though some dents were still observed, these were greatly reduced when compared to before steaming.The steaming method had raised to the surface all the major dents and dings. However, the outer and inner edges of the rim were still uneven. I took a piece of used and worn 180 grit sand paper, folded it and pinching it between my thumb and forefinger, created a slight inner bevel on the inner edge of the rim. Using the same technique, I created a light bevel on the outer edge. Now the rim surface and both its edges appear clean, even and well rounded.Steaming out the dents and dings from the stummel surface had necessitated that the surface of the stummel be evened out by sanding. I had an option of using more abrasive 220 grit sand paper followed by micromesh pad cycle and loose the patina or straight away go to the micromesh cycle. Using the more abrasive sand paper, minor dents and dings would be further addressed but I would lose the old sheen which the briar has taken over the years.  I decided on keeping the old sheen and went straight for the micromesh cycle. The old patina and the minor dents and dings would add to the vintage look of the pipe, which it was. I wet sand the stummel with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and follow it up by dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. To finish, I re-attach the stem with the stummel. I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel (actually it is not the brand machine, but a local machine which is similar).  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. I then mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine 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.The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the photographs in this case, do not do justice to the appearance of this beautiful little pipe. Thank you for having the patience to reach this far while reading the write up.

A Fresh Breath of Life for a Unique Creation by “John Bessai”


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

The next pipe that I decided to work on, and duly approved by Mr. Steve, is a pipe that was carved by an iconic pipe carver from USA who had carved pipes in the back room of his tobacco shop by hand. This pipe carver was lost to history, being marginalized and lost to the world, since his creations were in very small numbers and restricted to local sales only. This pipe carver is an integral part of American pipe making history and is now being revisited and revived by some experienced and knowledgeable pipe restorers and pipe collectors, notably Mr. Andrew Hross, who has carried out a detailed mapping of the pipe maker, his creations, dating his pipes based on stamping and pipe models. Mr. Steve has himself worked on a couple of these rare pipes and has included them in his personal collection!!!! Well, I think I have been able to rouse enough curiosity regarding this pipe carver in the minds of the reader and now to reveal the name……… The carver that I have been rambling about is John Bessai!!

Since having completed the restoration of an antique 1902-20’s era GBD with Albatross wing bone extension and horn stem from my Grandfather’s collection, I reverted back to Mr. Steve for selection of my next project. I have realized that he always suggests the most unique pipe, from the ones presented to him, for my next project and this time around he selected this John Bessai Rhodesian pipe with a suggestion that I should first read the blog on a couple of pipes from the same maker that he had previously worked on. I did exactly that and I realized that I have in my possession a rare and collectible pipe to work on.

This pipe has the classical Rhodesian shape with a cap which is differentiated from the rest of the stummel by a double ring. It has beautiful sandblast pattern all over the stummel and over the round shank, save for a small smooth portion on the right side of the shank which bears all the identification marks of this pipe, and on the rim top which looks amazing. It is stamped on the right side of the shank as “…BESSAI”, the initial part of the stamping is unclear, over bull’s eye symbol. The shank end is adorned by ½ inch hand rusticated Sterling silver band, which has developed a patina with age. It is stamped as “STERLING” in block capital letters, on the right side, in-line with the shank stampings. It would look classic once cleaned up. The stem is devoid of the trademark “JB” logo. Mr. Steve has researched this pipe maker and would make an interesting read for anyone, even remotely, interested in pipe history. Here is the link to his write ups: https://rebornpipes.com/2014/07/14/restemming-and-restoring-a-john-bessai-special-diamond-shank-bent-brandy/

This is the link to his second John Bessai project: https://rebornpipes.com/2012/08/21/reworking-a-john-bessai-pipe/

These write ups not only helped me in gaining knowledge about the pipe maker that John Bessai was, but also helped me know about dating the pipes that he had created. I have produced relevant extracts, though there is a wealth of information, from Mr. Steve’s write ups which include facts about dating as researched by Mr. Andrew Hross.

John Bessai was a long time pipemaker, repairman and tobacco shop owner who operated his pipe shop at the “Old Arcade” in Cleveland, Ohio. The shop was opened in approximately 1898. It was a small 2-room shop where he hand-crafted his own pipes in the back room and could work when customers were not there. Like so many other shop made brand, John Bessai’s limited production was quickly acquired by regular customers and thus his craftsmanship remained little known outside of Ohio and the Midwest. While his name is known by pipe collectors in the Midwest, his work is seldom seen elsewhere! He died before 1969. Nevertheless, John Bessai left behind a small number of classic shaped pipes; all were made on-site. They are praised worthy of collecting and reflecting skills well beyond most American pipe makers. John Bessai’s logo “JB” appeared as one letter as the “back” of the “J” and the “back” of the “B” share a single line. The logo was stamped on the stem and on the left side of the shank. His son Herb Bessai took over the business and also continued making pipes. He closed the shop in about 1978.

Pipes offered by John Bessai Pipe Clinic:
Most of the pipes that were offered by the John Bessai Pipe Clinic were fairly standard in shape… I would say most of the pipes Bessai offered were smooth pipes. My assessment would be 90% smooth and 10% rusticated / sandblasted…

Stampings and rough dating of John Bessai Pipe Clinic Pipes:
Which pipes did John make and which ones did Herb make/finish? All Bessai pipes carry his standard large JB stamp either on the stem or shank or both. Typically the JB on the stem is within a circle.

All pipes created by John Bessai’s hands reportedly contain the miniscule ‘jb’ stamp on the shank or body of the pipe. I have older pipes in my possession that do not contain this stamp (condenser, old stamps, etc) that were clearly shop made pipes. I feel he started using the tiny ‘jb’ stamp in the 50s to early 60s.

Dating / Circa era Bessai Pipes:
If the pipe carries a stamp stating Cleveland, O U.S.A. it’s considered an older production pipe (pre1960s). I’ve not seen any newer pipes with that stamp.

Bullseye stamping usually indicates an earlier pipe as that stamp seems to have been abandoned pre1960 as well.

Thus, from the above information, it is safe to suggest that the pipe presently on my work table is fairly rare as only 10% of the pipes made by John Bessai were rusticated or sandblasted and was made prior to 1950s as this one too does not have the famed “JB” stamp and bears the “Bull’s-eye” stamp on the shank.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The bowl is nicely rounded and wide at the rim with a depth of about 1 1/5 inches. The chamber is so filled with cake that I am unable to reach the bottom of the bowl with my little finger. The build-up of the cake is more heavy on the bottom half of the bowl. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be commented upon after the cake has been taken down to the bare briar.The mortise is full of oils, tars and gunk and air flow is restricted. The rim top is also rusticated which can be seen through the overflowing lava. The inner and outer edge of the rim appears to be in pristine condition with no dings or dents. However, exact condition can be ascertained only after further cleaning. As is commonly seen on rusticated or sandblasted pipes with some serious age on them, the crevices in these 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 right side of the shank which bears the stamping is covered in dust and grime. The fact that the grooved patterns are dusty and filled with dirt is accentuated more due to a very dark reddish brown stain on the stummel and the shank. The briar is looking lifeless and bone dry and has taken on black hues. The twin bore, ¾ bent vulcanite stem is so heavily oxidized that it appears brown in color!! Some heavy tooth chatter is seen on both surfaces of the stem towards the lip with one deeper bite mark on the upper surface. This issue should not be a major headache to address. The lip edge on both sides is badly chewed off with heavy bite marks and would need to be reconstructed and reshaped. However, the quality of vulcanite is superior to other vulcanite stems that I have handled before.The hand rusticated sterling silver band has developed a patina due to oxidation. This will have to be addressed.

THE PROCESS
During one of my YouTube surfing sessions on pipe restoration techniques, I came across a video which showed the use of Hydrogen Peroxide and hot water solution as an alternate method to tackle oxidation on a vulcanite stem. I decided to adopt this method to tackle heavy oxidation seen on this stem. Before proceeding with this method to get rid of the oxidation, I wanted to raise the tooth chatter and bite marks to the surface. Using a Bic lighter, I flamed the surface of the stem. This helped in raising some of the tooth chatter and bite marks to the surface as vulcanite has a property to regain its original shape on heating. The remaining tooth chatter and bite marks would be addressed subsequently.I mixed Hydrogen Peroxide and hot water in the ratio of 1:2 in a plastic bowl and immersed the stem of this pipe along with two other stems of the pipes which are in line for restoration. Within two minutes, the color of the stem changed to a dirty greenish brown color indicating that the oxidation is being pulled to the surface. I removed the stems from this bath and scrubbed it clean with “MagiClean” sponge. I followed it up by cleaning the internals of the stem. I used 220 grit sandpaper to sand the stem and removed all the oxidation that was raised to the surface. This step further reduced the tooth chatter and bite marks present on the stem. I addressed the deeper tooth chatter and bite marks by filling them up with a mix of activated charcoal and CA superglue. I applied a slightly thick layer over the lip which I will later sand down to create a defined edge. Once I had applied the mix, I set it aside to cure overnight. While the stem filling was left aside for curing, I worked on the stummel by first reaming the chamber with size 2 of PipNet reamer head, followed by size 3 head. I further scraped the chamber walls with my fabricated knife to remove the remaining carbon deposits. Once the cake was reamed back to the bare briar, I used a 150 grit sand paper followed by 220 grit sand paper to remove all the traces of remaining cake and also to smooth the inner walls of the chamber surface. Finally, to remove the carbon dust, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 99%. This was followed by cleaning the mortise with cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This further eliminated traces of old smells from previous usage. However, I must admit that I was still not very happy with the internal cleaning of the stummel and shank. The old smell was still prevalent, though greatly reduced. To completely eliminate the smell, I decided to resort to alcohol bath. I packed the chamber, just below the rim, with cotton balls. I stretched a cotton ball into a thick wick, tapering at one end, and inserted it in to the shank and pushed it as far inside as I could, using a straightened paper clip. I topped the bowl with isopropyl alcohol using a syringe. I know that it is generally a practice to use Kosher salt for this procedure, but since Kosher salt is not easily available here, and when available, it’s very expensive, I use cotton balls. I find that cotton balls work just fine in drawing out all the tars and smells from the mortise and the bowl. I topped the bowl with alcohol again after 20 minutes when the alcohol level had gone down and set it aside overnight for the cotton and alcohol to do its intended job.The next day, 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 internals of the stummel is now clean and fresh. Now, it was the turn of the externals of the stummel to get cleaned up. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed through all the grooves of the sandblast, cleaning them thoroughly. I cleaned the groove in between the cap ring with a sharp knife tip. The stummel was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. I set the stummel aside to dry out naturally. While the stummel was drying, I worked the stem. The fill had cured and with a flat head needle file, I worked on the filling till I had achieved a rough match with the surrounding surface. For a better blending, I further sand the entire stem with 220 followed by 600 and 1000 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the scratch marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with alcohol after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil. The finished stem is shown below. Once I was satisfied with the stem restoration, I started work on the stummel which had dried by now. When I had another look at the stummel after it had dried, I was not very pleased and satisfied with the way the rim top had cleaned up. I again cleaned it with Murphy’s oil soap and scotchbrite pad till the rim top was nice and clean. I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. The only surface on the stummel that remained to be spruced up was the Sterling silver band at the shank end. Abha, my wife, had suggested that I should try using Colgate toothpowder to bring back the shine on the Sterling silver band. She had tried this on her jewelry with amazing results. I rubbed the silver band with Colgate toothpowder and the results are truly amazing.I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel (actually it is not the brand machine, but a local machine which is similar).  I set the speed at about half of the full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe. I wiped/ buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. I then mounted another cotton cloth wheel on to the polishing machine 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. The finished pipe is shown below. This is indeed a beautiful pipe which feels great to hold in your hand and the classy looks add to its overall appeal. I was wondering how my grandfather, who had never traveled to US, let alone to Ohio, ended up with one of John Bessai’s creations????? If only this pipe could recount and narrate its story from Ohio to India…Thank you for your read and as usual, any suggestions/ comments are always welcome. They help me progress on my journey into the pipe world.

Breathing Life into a GIGI Collection Italia Studio X 40288


Blog by Steve Laug

It was time to go back to working on the estate pipes from the pipe shop that had closed here in Vancouver. The entire lot came to me from the estate of an older pipeman whose wife dropped them off at a pipe shop to be cleaned and sold. When the shop closed they came to me. The pipe on the table now was an Italian made with a bit of a freehand look to it. It is stamped GIGI over Collection Italia on the left side of the shank. On the right side it is stamped Studio X 4 over 40288. On the underside of the shank it is stamped REGD. NUMBERS over 256267-386165 followed by Made in Italy. The briar has some nice straight and flame grain around the bowl with what looks like faux plateau on the top of the bowl and the shank end. The bowl had a thick cake in it with an over flow of lava on the rim top. The plateau type finish was filled in with lava and was a real mess. It was hard to know what the rim edges looked like with the thick coat covering it all. The briar was dull and dirty looking. The freehand style stem is vulcanite and is oxidized. It had a turned portion near the tenon and the stem itself was oval. There was calcification and tooth chatter and marks damage next to the button on both sides. I took photos of the pipe when I received it. I sent about twenty of the pipes to my brother Jeff in Idaho to work over and clean up. He cleaned up the pipes with his usual thoroughness – reaming the bowl and scrubbing the internals with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the exterior with Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean off the dust and grime on the finish. When he sent it the pipe was ready to restore. I took photos of the pipe when I unpacked it. The briar was clean and the finish dull. There were some small fills on the left underside of the shank and bowl that needed to be repaired. I took a close up photo of the rim top after Jeff had cleaned it up. The look of the rim top and edges is very good. The carved finish on the plateau top is clean and undamaged. He had been able to remove the cake and the lava very well. The bowl looked very good. The plateau on the shank end is also very clean. The stem is also shown and was very clean. The tooth marks on both sides near the button are visible in the photos.  I was unfamiliar with the brand so I did some searching online and found some basic information on Pipedia. I quote in full:

Luigi “Gigi” Crugnola was born in 1934, the same year Giorgio Rovera founded a company in his own name in Varese, Italy along with partners Angelo and Adele Bianchi, who also happened to be Luigi Crugnola’s Uncle and Mother, respectively. The company produced pipes for 30 years, largely exported to America and elsewhere in the world. Crugnola took over the company in 1964 with the death of Angelo Bianchi, changing the name soon after to his own nickname Gigi, and continues to run the company today. The vast majority of Gigi pipes continue to be made for export (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Gigi).

I turned to my other go to website, Pipephil. The site included a photo of the carver and confirmed the information that I had read on the Pipedia site. It gave the contact information for the pipe company. It is as follows: Gigi Pipe Via Rovera, 40 21026 Gavirate Oltrona al Lago (VA) The link is – http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-g3.html.

From that I learned that the pipe was made by Luigi “Gigi” Crugnola and was made after he took over the company in 1964 and changed the name of the brand. I also learned that the majority of the pipes were made for export from Italy so it was not unusual to find one in Canada.

Armed with that information I decided to start on the bowl. I repaired the fills on the underside of the bowl and shank with clear super glue. Once the glue dried I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to blend the repairs into the surface of the briar. The fills looked much better with the darkening that occurs with the glue repairs than they did before my work. The photos below show the repaired areas.I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads to smooth out the surface of the briar and blend the repairs into the rest of the bowl. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad. I worked Before & After Restoration Balm into the briar and the plateau on the rim top and the shank end. I worked it into the surface with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect the wood. I let the balm sit for about 20 minutes and buffed it off with a soft cotton cloth. I took photos of the pipe at this point in the process to show what the bowl looked like at this point. I used a Medium Walnut Danish Oil Finish to touch up the repaired area and the rest of the bowl. The walnut stain really makes the grain pop on the briar. I hand buffed the bowl with a soft cloth to polish the briar. I buffed it lightly on the buffing wheel using Blue Diamond on the wheel. I took photos of the bowl after buffing. The grain is really standing out on the bowl at this point. It is beautiful. I took photos of the stamping at this point because it really stood out now.I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I used a Bic lighter to paint the surface of the vulcanite with the flame. The heat of the flame raised the tooth marks around the button edges. It raised the bite marks significantly but a repair would still need to be done. As I worked on the stem I noticed that it was faintly stamped on the right side of the stem near the turning with the words GIGI.I sanded the tooth marks and the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to minimize the tooth damage and to remove the oxidation. I was able to remove the majority of the tooth damage other than a few small spots along the button on the top side and the underside.I filled in the tooth marks with superglue spreading it with a toothpick. I set it aside to dry.Once the glue repairs cured I sanded them with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repairs. I sanded them to blend them into the surface of the rubber. I began the polishing of the stem with Denicare Mouthpiece Polish to work on the oxidation. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 and dry sanding them with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. I gave it a further polish with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. When I finished I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and let it dry. The following photos show the stem at this point. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and rubber. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The original patina on the bowl came alive with the buffing and worked well with the polished vulcanite stem. The pipe has a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem work give the pipe a very classic look. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. Thanks for reading this while I worked on it. It was interesting and unusual piece to restore and I really enjoyed the work.

Refreshing a Comoy’s Made in London, England Bent Bulldog


Blog by Dal Stanton

I saw this Comoy’s Bent Bulldog as a charity listing on eBay for the Akron Art Museum, in Akron, Ohio.  The seller, like me, was providing pipes for a good cause and I like that.  I also liked the Bulldog I saw in the pictures the seller provided and by the description, it seemed the seller was a pipe person.  The nuts and bolts description:

A classic bulldog! About 5 1/4” long, bowl is 1 1/2” tall, 1 5/8” wide tapering to 1 1/8” at rim. ID 13/16”, depth 1 5/16”. Marked on one side of shank COMOY’S, other side MADE IN LONDON ENGLAND in circular fashion 4097, beneath shank a capital H. A capital C stamped on side of bit. No other marks detected.

Diamond saddle bit is well-seated push fit, cleaned and polished, showing some bite wear but no holes through. Some oxidation as well. Stummel is well hand worn and smoothed, some dings and scratches, scorch on rim, light cake in bowl. Though the pipe is smokable as is, this one has the possibility of being a real beauty with some TLC!

I took the gambit dangled in the last sentence regarding this Bulldog’s possible condition with some TLC.  My bid on the auction block was sufficient, I supported the Akron Art Museum, and now this Comoy’s Bent Bulldog is on the worktable here in Sofia, Bulgaria, on track to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria, my favorite cause.  This was the second pipe that Stephen commissioned along with a Custom-Bilt Rusticated Panel.  Here’s the picture I saw on eBay which got Stephen’s attention in the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! collection:Now on my worktable, I take more pictures to get a closer look at the condition of this Comoy’s Bent Bulldog. The nomenclature on the Bulldog’s diamond shank is clear.  On the upper left shank is stamped ‘Comoy’s’.  The right upper shank has encircled, ‘MADE’ with ‘IN’ in the center and ‘LONDON’ on the bottom.  Underneath the circle is ‘ENGLAND’ in straight script.  To the right is shape number ‘409 7’.  Underneath this on the lower right shank panel is stamped ‘H’.  All indicators of the nomenclature point to a Cadogan era pipe which began in 1979 with the merger absorbing Comoy’s.  The simple ‘C’ stem stamp confirms this without the classic 3 piece inlaid ‘C’.  The shape number of 409 has historically indicated a Bulldog on earlier shape charts with a slight quarter bend.  The addition of the ‘7’ on this Bulldog I’m not clear on this, except that during the Cadogan era they added a 4th number to the shapes according to the Pipepedia article on shapes. I would say that this Comoy’s Bent Bulldog has been lovingly enjoyed over the years.  He’s got quite a few scrapes and bruises for the wear, mainly on his dome and circling the double grooves.  I took quite a few pictures of these above.  I’ll need to do some repairs especially on the back side of the dome where there are several small concentrated dents.  The front of the rim has been scorched from lighting practices it appears.  The dome grooves need to be cleaned and I detect a few chips of briar on the back-right side along the grooves.  Also, of interest are two huge fills on the right side of the bowl as it tapers down.  I’ll need to take a good long look at these.  The stem has oxidation and typical tooth chatter and compression dents on the button lip and just before the button.  The former steward was a clencher.

I begin the restoration of this Comoy’s Bulldog by placing the stem in a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other pipes and stems in the queue.  Whoops, I include the original seller’s pictures – I forgot to take pictures of the original stem’s condition before putting the stem into the soak. After some hours of soaking, I remove the Bulldog stem and using a cotton cloth wetted with alcohol, I wipe down the stem removing the raised oxidation.  I follow this by wetting a cotton pad with light paraffin oil (mineral oil) and continue to wipe off the oxidation and the oil helps rejuvenate the vulcanite.After the soak wiping and the stem dries, I can still detect oxidation on the stem which requires more attention.  Before I start sanding the stem, I use Before & After Fine and Extra Fine Polishes to work on the oxidation.  It is advertised to continue the raising process of oxidation.  I start first with the Fine Polish by putting some on my finger and rubbing it in the vulcanite.  I also work it in well around the ‘C’ stamping to clean it more.  After applying, I allow it to stand for some time and then wipe off.  I do the same with the Extra Fine Polish.  After I’ve finished, I still see a deep greenish hue indicating the oxidation is still holding on.  The last picture below tries to capture what I see with the naked eye – it doesn’t do a very good job! One more noninvasive approach to the oxidation I’ll try.  I scrub the stem surface using Magic Eraser.  After working the white sponge over the entire surface, it did do a good job.  More oxidation was removed, but not enough to make me happy!  I still see oxidation especially on the ‘saddle’ of the saddle stem.  The pictures show the progression.Next, I sand the stem starting first with 240 grit paper.  I do not like going through the fine tune buffing with micromesh pads and start seeing oxidation!  So, I sand the entire stem, avoiding the Comoy’s ‘C’ stamping.  I also use at disc to sand against at the stank side of the stem.  The disc helps to guard against shouldering the stem so that the edges are not sharp as the stem joins the shank.  This sanding is primarily for dealing with the oxidation.  In the pictures below, you can see the bit area compressions that are left untouched by the sanding.Before proceeding further with the sanding of the stem, I use the heating method to raise the compressions in the vulcanite in the bit area.  Using a Bic lighter, I paint the bit and button to heat the vulcanite which causes it to expand.  The hope is that this will cause the indentations perhaps to go away or lessen in their impact so that they will then sand out more easily. After painting the bit with the open flame, it helped to minimize some, but it did not erase the dents and compressions on the bit and on the button lips.  I follow with a flat needle file to file the button to refresh and shape the edges.  I follow again with 240 grit paper continuing to sand the dents on the bit.  Using the Bic lighter to raise the dents helps and I’m able to sand out all the dents and compressions from biting. Before proceeding further with the sanding of the stem, I use the heating method to raise the compressions in the vulcanite in the bit area.  Using a Bic lighter, I paint the bit and button to heat the vulcanite which causes it to expand.  The hope is that this will cause the indentations perhaps to go away or lessen in their impact so that they will then sand out more easily. After painting the bit with the open flame, it helped to minimize some, but it did not erase the dents and compressions on the bit and on the button lips.  I follow with a flat needle file to file the button to refresh and shape the edges.  I follow again with 240 grit paper continuing to sand the dents on the bit.  Using the Bic lighter to raise the dents helps and I’m able to sand out all the dents and compressions from biting.  Next, I wet sand the entire stem using 600 grade paper and follow this by buffing with 0000 steel wool. One last thing at this point before turning to the stummel, I give the stem a coat of light paraffin oil to help revitalize it.  I put the stem aside to absorb the oil and dry. With the stummel in hand, I begin the internal cleaning by reaming the light cake build up in the chamber.  I use 3 of the 4 blade heads available from the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  I then use the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool to reach the hard to reach places in the chamber.  I then sand the chamber with 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen followed by wiping the bowl with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to clean the carbon dust left behind.  Inspection of the chamber reveals some heat fissures on the floor of the chamber.  There also appears to be a small fissure creeping up just above the draft hole.  I take a few pictures that show what I’m seeing.  Are these fissures severe enough to warrant a durable patch or perhaps apply a pipe mud to enhance the growth of a protective cake?  That’s what I’ll be considering.  Continuing the cleaning, I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap on the external briar surface.  To work on the grit lodged in the grooves I use a bristled tooth brush.  I also use a brass wire brush to work around the dome and rim to clear away the old oils. Using a sharp dental probe, I painstakingly clean both dome groves, scraping packed dirt out.  I’m careful not to jump ‘track’ out of the grooves and scratching the briar surface.  The picture shows the cleaning progress. With the externals cleaned up, I turn now to the internal mortise and airway.  Using pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95% I go to work. I quicken the work by scraping the mortise with a dental spatula.  In time, the cotton buds and pipe cleaners were coming out clean.  I’ll continue cleaning later using a kosher salt and alcohol soak.Turning again to the stummel surface, the rim and dome cleaned up well but show the dents and pockets from knocks and drops.  There remains a scorched area at the front of the rim/dome area.  There are small chips in several places around the circumference of the dome grooves.  I believe they’re all too small to patch, but with sanding I’m hoping that most should disappear or be minimized.  The most daunting aspect of the briar landscape is a huge, double fill patch on the right lower side of the stummel.  I take two pictures of the fills to show the position and a super close-up to show the appearance of the fills.  I poked the fills with a dental probe and both fills are rock solid.  Yet, as the close-up picture reveals, there are small air pocket holes in the fills and gaping around the fills.  I’ll leave the fills in place but touch them up with thin, clear CA glue and then sand to blend.  These fills will pretty well drive the boat regarding the finished look of the Comoy’s Bulldog.  The finish needs to be darker in order to mask the fills as much as possible, though even a dark stain will not hide these giants.   Looking again around the dome grooves, on the back-right quadrant there may be at least 2 candidates for a patch before sanding.  I take a picture of this area.  To the top left of the groove chips, there are also a few small holes that I’ll fill with a spot-drop of CA glue.  In this picture there are also two other small fills that seem to be in good shape.Before I begin sanding and patching, I start from the top and work my way down!  Topping the stummel will re-define the rim and address the front quadrant of the rim/dome where the former burn damage has thinned the rim.  I take some pictures to show these issues and mark the start. I put 240 grade paper on the chopping board and rotate the inverted stummel several times, checking as I go to make sure I’m staying level and not leaning into soft spots in the briar. When enough of the top is removed, I then switch the paper to 600 grade paper and turn the stummel a few more rotations. I take pictures to show the progress.  Now to the patching party!  I first wipe the stummel with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol to clean the area. I start with the two large fills by spot dropping a small amount of thin CA glue over the fills and spreading the glue over the entire fill – filling the pockets and gaps.  To move the work along faster, since these are not ‘weight bearing’ patches, I use an accelerator to quicken the curing process.   For the groove patch, I insert a piece of an index card into the groove to create a flow barrier for the CA glue.  I then spot-drop a small amount of CA glue slightly above the chip and draw the glue over the chipped area with a toothpick.  Again, I use an accelerator to solidify the glue.  After a few minutes, I pull the index card away and use a sharp dental probe to make sure the groove is clear of CA glue seepage.  Next, I apply small drops to four other small pits near the grooves and above them – again, I use an accelerator.  I decide also to apply a small drop to the right of the primary groove repair.   The repairs look a mess now, but I’m hopeful that the sanding will prove to reveal a more pleasing surface!Next, I begin the filing and sanding of the two large fill patches down to the surface level.  I use a flat needle file to do this initially when the patch mound is more distinct, then follow with 240 grade paper as the sanding nears the briar surface.  The gaps and pits in the original patch filled nicely, blending better with the surrounding briar.To both clean and sharpen the grooves at the groove patch repair, I insert 240 grade paper into the groove itself.  The groove is only large enough to accommodate a single sheet, so I must flip the paper to sand both the upper and lower edges of the groove.  I use a sawing motion with the paper while in the groove and I flex the paper up to apply a little more sanding action to the groove edge.  This technique does a good job redefining and cleaning up groove edges, especially at the point of the CA glue repair.After filing, sanding the groove patch repairs, and ‘groove sanding’ the groove repair looks great!  The patch has blended, and the groove is cleaner and smarter.Next, I move on to filing and sanding the 4 patches to the left of the groove repair on the dome.  I file the patch mounds down until near the briar surface and then take over with 240 grit paper.  I sand the area of the patches to blend.  It looks good – not pristine, but much less ragged!  The battered stummel is showing some signs of life!I follow by ‘groove sanding’ this area.  I like the results of this technique, so I decide to continue the groove sanding around the entire circumference of the dome for both the upper and lower grooves.  Since I’m able only to do one directional sanding on the grooves, it requires four circuits around the dome to do the job!  I refined the technique as I work – by flexing the paper somewhat I can sand more directly chips encountered on the groove edge as I slowly work around the dome.  The pictures show the groove sanding progress and results – much cleaner and crisper for this Comoy’s Bulldog! I continue preparing the external briar surface by sponge sanding starting first with the coarse sanding sponge.  I then use a medium grade sponge then finish with a light grade sanding sponge.  I avoid totally the upper shank panels with the nomenclature.  Sanding sponges help to clean the surface of the minor nicks and cuts and soften the look without an overly intrusive sanding effect.  The pictures show the results of the 3 sponges. As I sponge sand the dome of the Bulldog, I notice a chip in the inner lip of the rim that became more distinct during the sanding process.  To erase this small divot, I introduce a very gentle inner bevel to the rim using 240 grade paper rolled.  This dispatched the divot quickly. Earlier, I avoided using the sanding sponges on the nomenclature panels in order not to diminish the Comoy’s stampings.   I do want to clean the panels more to rid the old residue finish before applying a fresh stained finish.  To remove the old finish and to clean the panel I apply acetone to a cotton pad and wipe the panels.  This does the job. With the time of my departure for the work day rapidly approaching, I continue the internal cleaning of the mortise and airway using a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  After forming a wick by stretching and twisting a cotton ball, I insert it down the mortise and airway using a stiff wire.  The wick acts to draw out the tars and oils.  I then add kosher salt (no aftertaste) to the chamber and place the stummel in an egg crate for stability.  With a large eyedropper, I add isopropyl 95% to the chamber until is surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes, after the alcohol has absorbed into the chamber, I top off the alcohol and set the stummel aside to soak for the day.Arriving home several hours later, the soak did the job of finishing the internal cleaning.  I clean the expended salt from the chamber with paper towel and shank brushes as well as blowing through the mortise.  I run an additional pipe cleaner and cotton bud wetted with alcohol to assure the internals were clean.  They are, now moving on!Before proceeding further with the external stummel preparation, I’ve come to a decision point regarding the chamber issues that I saw earlier.  The floor of the chamber has heat fissures which the first picture shows.  The second picture shows the fissure immediately above the draft hole.  The upper chamber shows some heating issues with small, more normal chamber wear.  Earlier, my question had been, do the fissures on the floor of the chamber need a more durable response than simply applying a pipe mud mixture to enhance the growth of a protective cake?  The floor of the chamber has experience overheating issues and I believe at this point would benefit from applying J-B Weld to prevent further damage and to reinforce the resistance of the chamber floor.J-B Weld comes with two components that are mixed together and once mixed harden to form a heat resistant bond.  I’ll mix a small amount and apply it to the floor of the chamber then spread it over the area, including above the draft hole, filling the fissures with the Weld.  After it hardens and cures, I’ll sand the excess. I first wipe the chamber with alcohol and put a pipe cleaner through the airway to block seepage into the draft hole.  After I mix J-B Weld components in equal parts, I apply a small amount on the floor of the chamber and spread it with a dental spatula and my finger. I rotate the pipe cleaner so that it is not stuck but I leave it in place – I don’t want to pull it out while the J-B Weld is wet leaving the mixture in the mortise.  I put the stummel aside for the J-B Weld to cure.  After the repair cured overnight, I take a picture of the sanding process using 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  I concentrate on removing the excess J-B Weld so that all that is left of the weld is what has filled the fissures and cracks. The next pictures show a much healthier chamber.  At the floor of the chamber in the first pictures and concentrating on the area immediately above the draft hole in the second picture, you still see what appears to be rough spots, but it is now smooth to the touch in large measure.  The Weld filled the cracks and reinforced the area.  The application of J-B Weld and the additional sanding on the floor and the walls of the chamber cleaned it up nicely.  Putting the stummel aside, I take the stem and wet sand using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400.  I follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads I apply Obsidian Oil to revitalize the vulcanite. With the stem waiting in the wings, I continue with the stummel by wet sanding with micromesh pads 1500 to 2400.  I follow this by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I take pictures of both sides of the stummel to show the huge fills on the right side.  If it weren’t for these unavoidable fills, the fantastic recovery the stummel has made would encourage me to leave the original, natural grain finish in place.  The briar surface had many issues, but the results of the micromesh sanding reveal a very attractive grain presentation.  The next step is to apply a dark stain to the Comoy’s Bulldog that will serve to help mask the issues prevalent on the surface.  Without question, my plan is to apply Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye to the stummel surface.  I assemble all the needed components on the table to apply the stain.  First, using a sharp dental probe I carefully dig out and scrape the dome grooves to make sure the debris is gone.  After wiping the stummel with alcohol to clean and prepare the surface, I fit the stummel with a cork I’ve fashioned as a handle inserted into the mortise.  Next, I heat the stummel with a hot air gun to expand the briar grain.  This aids the briar in absorbing the dye pigment.  Using a folded over pipe cleaner, I apply the dye to the stummel.  After a thorough application, I flame the stummel with a lit candle and the alcohol-based aniline dye combusts and sets the dye in the grain.  After a few minutes, I apply the dye again and flame again to make sure there is an even coverage.  I then set the stummel aside for the dyed stummel to rest. After resting for several hours through the night, it’s time to unwrap the fire-crusted Comoy’s stummel.  Over time, I have developed my own techniques for use with the Dremel since this is my main and only work horse tool on the 10th floor flat of a formerly Communist block apartment building!  My usual method for ‘unwrapping’ has been with the use of a felt buffing wheel, which is more abrasive than cotton, applying Tripoli compound.  I love this technique because the result reveals a more brilliant grain pattern as it lightens the grain veins leaving them in contrast to the softer briar wood which absorbs more of the dye.  However, I have found that using the felt buffing wheel lightens the entire stummel.  With the large dark fills on this stummel in need of remaining masked for better blending, I use a cotton cloth buffing wheel with Tripoli compound to unwrap the flamed crust.  The softer cotton wheel isn’t as abrasive and leaves a darker dyed hue on the briar surface.  After mounting a cotton cloth wheel on the Dremel, I set the speed at the lowest RPM and I apply Tripoli to the stummel. I take a couple staged pictures to show the contrast between the flamed crust and the surface that has been ‘unwrapped’ and buffed with compound.  After completing with the Tripoli, I wet a cotton pad with alcohol to wipe the stummel not so much to lighten but to blend the new stained finish. Next, I rejoin the stem and stummel to apply Blue Diamond compound.  I discover that the junction between the tenon and mortise has loosened through the cleaning process – a common thing in my experience.  To remedy this, I take a drill bit the next size larger than will fit through the tenon airway.  I use a Bic lighter and heat the tenon and after a bit, the vulcanite tenon becomes supple and allows me gradually to insert the drill bit end into the airway.  This expands the tenon and tightens the connection.  This works like a charm!  With the stem now fitting snuggly, I continue to apply Blue Diamond to the stummel and stem.  I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel and increase the speed to about 40% full power.  I apply Blue Diamond compound to both stem and stummel.Before moving on to applying carnauba wax to the pipe, I have two more projects to do.  The first is to apply white acrylic paint to refresh the Comoy’s ‘C’ stamping on the stem.  The second is to apply pipe mud to the chamber.  I decide to do the latter first.  After the repair done to the chamber, to enhance the healthy development of a protective cake (which should be maintained at about the width of a US dime coin) I use a mixture called pipe mud – a combination of cigar ash and water.  This mixture, once applied to the chamber and dries, hardens to create a starter surface for the cake to develop.  My colleague, Gary, who lives in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, is the cigar man who saves his ash for my use. Thanks, Gary!  I mix some water with ash in a plastic dish and mix it with my pipe nail until it starts to thicken. At this point, I apply it in the chamber with the nail and my finger.  It doesn’t dry quickly so there’s time to spread it evenly over the chamber.  After spread, I insert a pipe cleaner through the draft hole to keep it clear of the mud.  I then put the stummel aside in the egg cart for the mud to cure. Turning now to the Comoy’s ‘C’ stem stamp, I put a drop of white acrylic paint over the ‘C’ and absorb the excess with a cotton pad and ‘dob’ it out so that the paint thins and dries.  I then use a toothpick’s flat edge to gently scrape the excess paint off after it dries.  I have to reapply paint a few times to get it right.  The pictures show the process. After allowing the pipe mud to cure, I rejoin stem and stummel and once more, run the sharp dental probe in the grooves around the circumference of the dome then buff the pipe with a felt cloth clearing away the compound dust before applying wax.  I then mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, keep the speed at about 40% full power and apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the pipe.  I finish the restoration by using a microfiber cloth to give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing to raise the shine.

I’m pleased with the results of this Comoy’s Made in London, England, Bent Bulldog.  The restoration was fought in the trenches!  The many repairs done to the stummel surface came out well, though the two large fills are still evident, but not as overt. The dark brown dye came out beautifully and the groove patches and repairs have all but disappeared.  I’m glad I also addressed the heat fissure issues in the chamber.  This Comoy’s Bent Bulldog will provide many more years of service to a new steward.  Stephen commissioned this Comoy’s and will have first opportunity to acquire it in the Pipe Steward Store and this pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually abused.  Thanks for joining me!

 

The Challenge Continues… Restoring a Vintage Era GBD


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

As I had remarked earlier in my write up on the late 1850s era FIRST CHOQUIN, A METZ (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/11/17/a-challenging-restoration-of-vintage-era-first-choquin-a-metz/),I could not contain my curiosity to open the third, and the last, box of my inherited pipes. In addition to the regular collection of Barlings, Charatans,Comoys and other assorted collection, I came across two pipes which caught my fancy!!!!!

The pipe on the left bears a football stamp that reads “CHOQUIN” over “A METZ” and the one on the right side simply reads “GBD”  (there are other stampings on the silver ferrule, details of which will be highlighted when it comes up for restoration). Both of these pipes looked vintage and unique enough that I immediately Facetimed with Mr. Steve of rebornpipes. His admission that he is willing for a trade off with me for these two pipes was an indication enough for me to know and understand their uniqueness!!! Thus these two pipes moved to the top of my unorganized and chaotic list of restoration. 

Having now restored the CHOQUIN and experienced the challenges that these vintage pipes pose, I was faced with a dilemma of whether I should consider restoring the GBD or take a break and restore another unique and interesting pipe. Mr. Steve suggested the latter and hence I decided to undertake the restoration of the GBD amidst my hectic schedule.  

This GBD is a long and large pipe with a fairly large and deep smooth briar bowl and a steeply raking shank, the end of which is adorned by a sterling silver ferrule.The horn stem is connected with the shank by a long and hollow Albatross wing bone extension having sterling silver end caps at either end, most probably to strengthen it. The stem attaches itself to the wing bone extension by screw-in type tenon which is attached to this extension. The bowl is stamped on the left side of the shank as “GBD” in an oval encirclement and is the only stamping seen on the stummel. The Sterling silver ferrule at the shank end bears the oval stamp of “GBD” over “M R C LTD”,all in separate squares, over a rhombus which in all likelihood, enclosed the faded number “925” for Sterling silver. For its age, the stamping is crisp and clear.

The large bowl shows beautiful, densely packed birdseye grain on the right side and extending to the front of the bowl,while a combination of tightly packed straight and cross grain adorns the left side and back of the bowl. The shank on the bottom surface appears to be divided into two exact halves, the right side with closely packed birdseye while the left side has tight straight grains. These grains on either side of the shank extend neatly in a straight line to the front of the bowl dividing the grains in symmetrical equal halves.

I searched Pipedia for information on this brand and this model in particular. Even though I could neither find any pictures or mention of this particular pipe that I was working on, I did find some important snippets of information which helped me making an intelligent guess as to the vintage of the pipe. I have reproduced the information that I had gleaned from Pipedia:

A HISTORY OF GBD

In 1850 three gentlemen got together in Paristo establish a firm dedicated to the fabrication of Meerschaum pipes – a courageous step in politically restless times. Ganneval probably came from the area of Saint-Claude where he had learned making wooden pipes. Bondier’s family obviously came from Paris and had immigrated in 1789 to Geneva. He himself had worked as a wood turner in the clay and china pipe industry in and around Saint-Claude making stem extensions etc. Donninger was an Austrian or Swiss and had worked in Vienna, the world’s center of the Meerschaum pipe. They agreed on the acronym GBD selecting the initials of their surnames.

There is a very simple explanation for GBD’s program to turn more”British”: GBD became a British company soon after the turn of the century! In 1902 Marechal and Ruchon sold GBD to A. Oppenheimer & Co.in London.

The business relation to GBD in Paris began as early as 1870. Being the most important customer in the English speaking world, Oppenheimer & Co. were designated as sole distributor for Great Britain, the USA and Canada in 1897.Especially Adolphe Oppenheimer had a burning interest in the pipe business, and Louis’ son James Adler shared that. He should play the most important role in the amicable merger of GBD. A. Marechal, Ruchon and Cie. in Paris was now Marechal, Ruchon & Co. Ltd. (see Marechal Ruchon & Cie. page) – a British firm with four directors: Adolphe Oppenheimer and James Adler had their seat in the head office in London while Auguste Marechal and Ferdinand Ruchon went on leading the GBD factory in the Rue des Balkan in Paris, which was considerably extended and modernised. Ruchon acted as CEO.

Marechal Ruchon & Cie. was a company owned by Auguste Marechal and Ferdinand Ruchon (“& Cie” is the french equivalent of “& Co”) which owned the GBD brand from the end of the 19th century until 1902 when they sold Marechal, Ruchon & Cie. to Oppenheimer Pipe,which in turn changed the name of the company to Marechal, Ruchon & Co., Ltd. Upon the creation of Cadogan, however, the brand was no more, remembered only in the name of the GBD Marcee pipes made until just after the Second World War.

Cadogan Investments Limited is a subsidiary of A. Oppenheimer& Co. Limited. It was formed by Oppenheimer Pipe in 1920 as a holding company for its many recent acquisitions, including BBB,Loewe & Co.,two pipe factories in St. Claude and others. It continued to acquire pipe brands and makers for decades, adding GBD and others to their marquee.

It is from the last two paragraphs above, that I can judge that this pipe was made somewhere between 1902 and 1920!!!!!!

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION

The large, deep chamber shows a decent amount of cake build up with overflow of tars and tobacco oils on the surface of the rim top. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber will be ascertained once the cake has been reamed back to the bare briar. The inner and outer edges of the rim show a few odd minute dings. Once I have scraped the lava overflow from the rim top, I shall decide on the method to tackle them and may even decide to let them be. I do not envisage any major surprises inside the chamber as the bowl feels solid to the touch from outside.Air flow is laborious and constricted through the shank and will improve once the internals are cleaned.

The surface of the stummel is covered in oils and tars from the overflowing lava and is sticky to the touch. There are a few dings to the surface of the stummel, more particularly near heel of the bowl and bottom surface of the shank. Should I address them by sanding, I am not sure, as I fear losing the patina during the abrasive process of sanding with sandpaper.

While I was handling the stummel, I realized that the sterling silver ferrule at the shank end had come loose. I removed the ferrule and what was revealed turned my stomach inside out. The glue was hard and dry and the briar had totally dried out and the shank end opening was uneven. I could even make out one small crack running down from the lip of the shank opening. Talk about challenges!!!! This will have to be addressed without fail.

The Albatross wing bone extension is dirty and covered in dirt and grime. There are two superficial cracks on either side near the shank end. I        know these cracks are superficial as the bone surface around it is solid and without any give. These cracks will have to be addressed. The sterling silver end cap towards the tenon end has a flared out rim which is uneven. This causes the bone stem to sit unevenly on the rim. Air flow through the shank extension is clean and full.

The horn stem shows some minor tooth chatter on both the top and underside, but more prominently on the top surface. This should be taken care of by sanding with a 220 or higher grade sand paper. All in all, the stem appears to be pretty solid. The edge of the lip on both upper and lower surface is slightly damaged and will need to be sharpened. Air flow through the stem is open and full.

The sterling silver ferrule and bone shank end caps are deeply oxidized and show the patina normal for its age. Once they are cleaned and shining they will add a class to this pipe.

THE PROCESS

I started the process of restoration by reaming the chamber with size two of the PipNet reamer head and progressing through to size three. I followed up the reaming with scraping the remnants of the cake from the walls of the chamber and the rim top surface with my fabricated knife.Once the cake was reamed back to the bare briar, I used a 150 grit sand paper followed by 220 grit sand paper to remove all the traces of remaining cake and also to smooth the inner walls of the chamber surface. Finally, to remove the carbon dust, I wiped the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 99%. I gently scraped the rim top surface with a sharp knife. Removing all the cake from the chamber and rim top revealed that firstly, the rim was well rounded with no charring and only a minor chip and secondly, as I had anticipated,there was no damage to the inner walls of the chamber.

With 220 grit sand paper, I cleaned the internal and the external surfaces of the shank end opening, which until now was covered by the sterling silver ferrule, to remove all the carbon build-up, oils, tars,grime, dried briar wood and the dried glue. This process results in even more dried briar crumbling off, leaving behind a gaping hole. This needed to be restored as the damage is to that portion which supports the Albatross wing bone extension where it sits in to the shank. I conferred with Mr. Steve and it was decided to reconstruct the damaged portion by layering the gap with superglue and briar dust as the glue hardened immediately on coming in contact with the briar dust.

Before beginning the reconstruction of the broken shank end, I cleaned the internals of the shank, using hard bristled and regular pipe cleaners, q-tips, shank brushes, all generously dipped in isopropyl alcohol. The pipe cleaners would not pass through the mortise airway and the draught hole and so had to resort to more invasive methods. I straightened a paper clip and curving it, probed the insides of the mortise and the airway. After some efforts, I was able to dislodge the block. I scraped the inner walls of the mortise with a fabricated dental spatula. I gave a final cleaning with pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol till the pipe cleaners came out, well, clean!!!  The heap of pipe cleaners and q-tips that are seen in these pictures are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. I must have gone through an entire packet of 50 of both types of pipe cleaners, in addition to the q-tips and brush cleaning!!!!!

I, thereafter, began the process of reconstructing the broken portion of the shank end. I folded a pipe cleaner to fit snugly in to the opening of the shank end. Once I was satisfied with the fit, I smeared the pipe cleaner with Vaseline jelly and inserted it in to the opening.I applied first layer of superglue and pressed a little briar dust over it and let it set for a few minutes. This is followed by another layering and continued this process till I was satisfied with the reconstruction. I set the stummel aside overnight for the reconstruction to cure.

As the shank end reconstruction was curing, I initiated the repair and clean up of the Albatross wing bone extension and the horn bone stem. I cleaned the internals of the wing bone extension and the horn stem with bristled and normal pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol.Once the internals were clean, I cleaned the external surface of the extension with cotton swabs dipped in Acetone and finely applied superglue over the superficial crack. This was done primarily to stabilize, strengthen and prevent further spreading of the superficial crack and obviate any chances of air escaping from these cracks in future. I set the wing bone extension to cure overnight along with the shank end repair.

As I had remarked during my initial visual inspection, I felt that the tooth chatter on the lower and upper surface of the horn bone stem should be taken care with sanding it down with a 220 grit sandpaper. How wrong was I! After sanding the upper and lower surfaces of the horn stem, I realized that the tooth chatter was deeper than I had anticipated and would have to be addressed with a fill of clear superglue. And so I filled these tooth chatters with superglue and the stem too joined the ranks of the shank end repair and wing bone extension on the rack for curing overnight.

The next evening, after a hectic and tiring day in office, I decided to work on the shank end reconstruction. I filed the external repaired area with a flat head needle file and carefully matched the profile of the fill with that of the surrounding area so as not to adversely affect the fit of the ferrule at a later stage. I frequently checked the progress by fitting the ferrule over the shank end. I achieved a perfect profile match by sanding the shank end with a used 150 grit sand paper. Once the external profile was matched, I worked on the internal adjustment of the reconstruction to match the seating of the wing bone extension in to the mortise using a round needle file. I frequently checked the seating of the extension in to the mortise and making necessary adjustments by filing till I was able to achieve a perfect fit. To be honest, it was not as easy as it appears while reading it.The amount of time and concentration required cannot be described in words.

Staying on the stummel restoration, I cleaned the external surface of the stummel and the rim top surface with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and a hard bristled toothbrush and rinsed it under running tap water, taking care that water does not enter the chamber and the mortise. I dried the stummel using paper towels and soft, absorbent cotton cloth and set it aside to dry out naturally. The beautiful grain really stands out at this stage with the symmetrical division of grains on the lower surface of the shank, more distinct and clear. It is easily one of the best grained pipes that I have in my collection. Somehow, I was not satisfied with the way the rim top surface had cleaned up and I again sought the advice of my mentor, Mr. Steve, and received his reply, in his peculiar style, as “I would”, that’s all he had remarked!!!!!!

And so my initial plan for not topping the rim top was shelved and I decided to carefully top the rim surface. This would also help to address the one single chip on the rim’s top surface and also to remove traces of lava overflow. I topped the rim surface with 220 grit sand paper.Though it is recommended to have a wooden board with the 220 grit sand paper firmly fixed over it, I just keep the sand paper on a flat table top, holding it firmly with my left hand and rotating the stummel rim top over it with my right hand. I have come to realize that this set up gives me lot more freedom of movement, better control and convenience of storage. The single chip was addressed to a great extent, but was still an eye sore. Using a folded 150 grits and paper pinched between my thumb and forefinger, I created a very light bevel to mask the chip. Though the bevel is not easily discernible, it helped address the issue of the chipped rim inner edge.

I followed it up by micromesh polishing pads,wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads. Again, I wiped the bowl with a moist cotton cloth after each pad. I used the 3200 to 12000 grit pads to dry sand the stummel to a nice shine. It was at this stage that DISASTER struck!!!!! The stummel slipped from hands and crashed to the ground, shattering the reconstructed shank end and sustain a big ding to the heel of the stummel. Oh my!!! What agony it would be to reconstruct,re-profile the exterior and readjust the seating of the extension in to the mortise. But at this stage of restoration, I was left with no recourse but to reconstruct.

 This time around, I slightly tweaked the process. I wound a cotton rag around the complete stummel, less area to be repaired, so that the glue and briar dust does not spill over rest of the stummel and create more work for me. I completely sanded the earlier reconstructed portion and applied a layer of superglue and let it cure for a few minutes. Once the glue had hardened, I applied second layer of super glue and pressed some briar dust over it. I repeated this process of layering till I had achieved a matching top surface. I applied a final layer of superglue over the complete reconstruction and set it aside to cure overnight.

The next evening, I worked on the wing bone extension and the horn stem. I sanded the fills on the shank extension and the stem with a 220 grit sand paper. I sharpened the edges on the lip with the help of a flat head needle file and a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper. When the fills were matched with rest of the surface, I progressed to micromesh polishing, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the shank extension and the stem with a moist cloth after every pad and rubbed a little extra virgin olive oil on the surface after every three pads. The Albatross wing bone extension and the horn stem is nice, smooth and clean. The wing bone extension has retained its natural coloration and there is nothing one can do anything about it. I finished the restoration of the wing bone extension by polishing the sterling silver end caps with cigar ash. At this stage, the entire assembly of the extension and screw-in type of bone stem looks beautiful, smooth, shiny and classic. I call it a day and decide to work on the stummel the next evening.

I start work on the stummel by filing the external surface with a flat head needle file and go through the entire process described earlier to match the exterior and internal surface with the sterling silver ferrule and seating of the Albatross wing bone extension respectively. I was extra careful this time around while working the stummel. You may find it amusing, but I sat on my double bed while I worked on the stummel!!!! Such a fright this incident had caused.

Then there was the issue of a dent near the heel in the stummel surface. Mr. Steve suggested adopting the steaming method to address this dent. Though theoretically I was well conversed with this method, I had never attempted it before and now to attempt it on a pipe of such vintage, beauty and value, had me in doubts. Added to this, I did not have any electric iron in my room as all the laundry, including ironing, is done by the washer man (I do enjoy certain privileges that come at my seniority in my organization). But seeing no other way out, I decided to give it a go. I improvised a bit and heated my trusted fabricated knife on a candle flame, soaked a thick Turkish hand towel and placed it on the dent. When I felt that the knife was sufficiently hot (well, I got it nicely hot!!!), placed it over the hand towel and over the dent. When there was a nice sizzling sound and a thick whiff of steam, I immediately removed the knife away from the surface and with a thumping heart, removed the hand towel to inspect the results, and boy was I pleased!!! The dent was reduced to nothing with the briar expanding nicely to lift the dent due to the steam, but it did leave behind a stark discoloration around the area. After a brief discussion with Mr. Steve and exchange of pictures, he suggested to rub some ‘Before and After’ balm in to the affected area to see if this would help in addressing the issue. Fortunately, it did!!!!Since I had attempted this steaming method for the first time, I was too preoccupied and missed out on taking pictures, my sincere apology to all those who were looking forward to these pictures.

To match the repaired surface with the rest of the stummel, I went through the complete micromesh polish cycle again.

At the end of 12000 grit pad, I rubbed a little quantity of ‘Before and After’ restoration balm in to the stummel with my fingers and set it aside for 10-15 minutes while I polished the sterling silver ferrule. The transformation in the briar is amazing to say the least!!!!! I buffed the stummel with a soft cotton cloth. I finish this stage of restoration by re-attaching the nicely polished and shining sterling silver ferrule over the shank end using super glue.

To finish the restoration, I mounted a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel (actually it is not the brand machine, but a local machine which is similar).  I set the speed at about 40% full power and applied White Diamond compound to the entire pipe.  Afterwards, I wiped/buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to clear it of any leftover compound dust. I then mounted another cotton cloth wheel to the polishing machine,maintaining 40% speed 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. The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant. Thank you for having the patience to reach this far while reading the write up. Your comments are of utmost importance to me for improving my skills in restoration process as well as writing about it. Cheers!!!

PS. During the journey of restoring this beauty, my Guru and mentor, Mr. Steve was always around with his words of wisdom and encouragement to egg me on towards completing this project. It felt like he was holding my hand and helping me take my first baby steps around towards completing this restoration. Thank you once again, Mr. Steve.

Rescue of a Stately Stanwell Henley Special, Made in Denmark, Oval Shank Billiard


Blog by Dal Stanton

I have been looking forward to this project ever since I landed three Stanwell Henley Special pipes on the eBay block from a seller in Maryland.  The seller provided helpful information that only helped urged me to place a bid:

This auction is for three vintage Stanwell, Henley Line estate pipes from the 1950’s-60’s era. All are in good pre-owned condition. The stems are primarily free from teeth marks. The stems do have some fading. All of the stems fit snug and the wooden bowls are free from outstanding blemishes. As seen from top to bottom, the first pipe reads Henley Special #57, the second and third read Henley Special without any numbers seen. All of the pipes read Made in Denmark.

Since I started collecting and restoring pipes, I’ve grown in my appreciation for Danish made pipes.  They tend to be stout, well made pipes.  The stems are also interesting – the ‘pinched saddle’ fish tail is unique.  When I saw the 3 Henley Specials, I was attracted to the line-up but had never heard of ‘Henley’.  When I read the sellers description I was sold – I was especially drawn to the ‘Chimney’ on the top of the group below, sporting a pinched saddle fishtail stem.  The Stanwell Henley on my workbench now is the classic Oval Shank Billiard in the center.  Along with a Comoy’s Moorgate, Jim saw the Henley Special in the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! collection and commissioned him.  He saw what I also see in these classic Danish pipes.  As with frosting on the cake, this pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria, our work here in Bulgaria helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  The pictures show what I saw on eBay. Unfortunately, I cannot find much online regarding the Henley line.  Pipedia’s article on Stanwell pipes simply places the Henley Special line in the list of Stanwell second brands.  Pipephil.eu provided more information with a Henley much like the slightly bent, Chimney above with the characteristic bulging midsection, but with a blasted finish.  It also show a ‘H’ stem stamp.  If the Henley on my worktable had one, it is now long gone.The only information I found that gave any reference to dating is spurious at best. I found the following picture on Google images but the link to pipesmokersforum.com is now a dead end.  “Who made this pipe?”  I would have loved to read the thread that discussed the dating of the discontinued Stanwell second, Henley Special.  The picture puts a question mark in the late 50s.  Looking at all the 3 Henley Specials I acquired, the look and feel of them lends toward this dating, but…. This picture and the eBay seller’s description placing the pipes in the 50s or 60s are anecdotal, but seem to me to be accurate.  Oh, for the return of the now defunct, Chris’ Pages website, to look through the old catalogs! One very interesting find was a Stanwell Henley Special for sale in the listings of SmokingPipes.com in restored state – very nice.  It gives me an idea of what might be under the older, tired finish of all three Henleys in my collection.Taking a closer look at the Henley Special Oval Shank Billiard on my worktable, I take these pictures for a closer look. The nomenclature is found on the upper side of the oval shank.  A very thin, worn ‘Henley’ (in cursive script) [over] offset ‘SPECIAL’.  On the underside is the COM, ‘MADE IN DENMARK’. As with the other two Stanwell Henley pipes I acquired at the same time, the finish is extremely dark from years of grime and oil build up.  The uniformity of the darkened state of the pipes lends to a common period of manufacturing, which I’m guessing to be in the 1950s or 60s.  Even though I know it’s not an exact science, the feel of the pipes seems older.  I need first to clean the briar surface before I can see what is going on with the briar – the condition or even the look of the grain.  The oval saddle stem has oxidation, tooth chatter and dents which need attention.  The cake in the chamber is thick and will be removed to give the briar a fresh start.  The rim has significant lava flow and I detect a divot on the internal lip of the rim which needs attention.

To begin the restoration of this vintage Stanwell Henley Special Oval Shank Billiard, I run a pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% through the airway to clean it up.  I then add the oval saddle stem to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer with other pipes and stems in the queue.  I leave it in the soak for several hours and fish it out, letting the Deoxidizer drain off the stem.  I then wipe the raised oxidation with cotton pads wetted with alcohol.  I follow the alcohol by wiping the stem with a pad wetted with light paraffin oil. Turning now to the bowl, I begin by reaming the chamber.  There is heavy cake in the chamber tightens as it descends in the chamber.  Using the Pipnet Reaming Kit, I start with the smallest of the 4 available blade heads.  After putting some paper towel on the table, I go to work.  I use 3 blade heads of the 4 and then transition to the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool. With the Fitsall tool I continue scraping the chamber wall and fine-tuning the reaming and reaching to the difficult angles.  Then, wrapping 240 grade paper around a Sharpie Pen, I sand the chamber removing more carbon and revealing fresh briar.  To complete the chamber cleanup, I wipe it with a cotton pad and alcohol to clear the carbon dust.  With the carbon cake cleared, an inspection of the chamber reveals no problems with cracks or heat fissures. The pictures show the progress. Turning now to the external surface, I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap on cotton pads.  I’m anxious to see what the Murphy’s Soap does on this very dark, aged briar surface. As I use the cotton pad, I very quickly begin to see what beauty was waiting underneath.  I called my wife to take some pictures as I scrubbed the ancient layer of oils and tars that have cocooned the briar underneath.  I also use a bristled tooth brush and a brass wire brush on the rim.  My, oh my!  I’ve never seen a pipe clean up to such a pristine condition.  I rinse the bowl with tap water and literally marvel at what is in my hand.  The rim is still darkened a bit from lava flow, but the flame grain that dominates the bowl’s external surface is striking.  I take two pictures after the cleaning to mark the progress.  As I look at the stummel, I decide to hydrate the briar using light paraffin oil (mineral oil) which also gives me a sneak peek at a finished stummel.  The before and after pictures tell the story. Turning now to the internals of the stummel, I use cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% to clean the mortise and airway. I also utilize long shank brushes to save on pipe cleaners.  To loosen up the tars and oils, I employ a dental spatula to scrape the mortise wall and reach into the airway.  A drill bit effectively excavates crud out of the airway. To do this, I use a bit the size of the airway and hand turn the bit so that it proceeds down the airway.  The bit grabs the buildup and removes it.  After some time excavating and scraping, pipe cleaners and cotton buds start coming out clean.  The pictures show the tools and the progress.I continue the internal cleaning with a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  After twisting and stretching a cotton ball to form a wick, I stuff it down the mortise/airway to draw the oils and tars.  Following this, I fill the bowl with kosher salt (kosher salt has no residual after-taste as does iodized salt) and set it in an egg crate.  Using a large eye dropper, the bowl fills with isopropyl 95% until the alcohol surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes the alcohol is absorbed, and I top off the alcohol and set the stummel aside for the night. The next morning, the soak did the work.  I toss the expended salt in the waste and wipe the bowl with paper towel to remove the salt.  I also use a shank brush in the chamber and down the mortise to remove any remaining salt.  Finally, I blow through the mortise.  To make sure all is clean, I finish by wetting a pipe cleaner and cotton bud with isopropyl 95% and running them through the mortise.  I declare the stummel to be cleaned. With the pipe cleaned, I look again at the stummel surface which almost appears to have been protected by the layer cocooning it.  My task will be to preserve the patina of the briar’s finish by not introducing sanding that will be too invasive and remove the aged surface.  I sent a note off to Steve of rebornpipes, just to make sure my plan received his concurrence before moving further with the Henley.  My plan is to first repair the divot on the inside of the rim lip, shown at the 2 o’clock position on the first picture below.  I could introduce an internal bevel to mask the divot, but I would rather salvage the rim real estate with this vintage pipe.  I make a patch of briar dust and thick CA glue and mix a small amount of putty with it.  After wiping the area with alcohol to clean it, I mix the CA glue and briar dust until it reaches the viscosity of molasses and apply the putty to the divot using a toothpick.  It takes very little.  I put the stummel aside to allow the patch to cure. With the patch curing, I look at the stem and take some close ups of the bit area.  The chatter is light with some bites.  I begin by using the flame method to raise the indentations in the vulcanite.  With a Bic lighter, I paint the button area.  The physics of vulcanite – a compound rubber, expands when heated.  The heating causes the bites and chatter to lessen in the intensity.  As I heat, it does lessen but is not fully removed.  I next use 240 grit paper and sand out the chatter and dents remaining.  I also use the flat needle file to redefine the button lips – upper and lower.  The pictures show the progress. Following the 240 paper and filing, I use 600 grade paper and wet sand the entire stem.  I follow this using 0000 steel wool to sand/buff the stem.  The pictures show the progress.Next, using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand the stem.  I follow by dry sanding using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads, I apply a coat of Obsidian Oil to the stem to revitalize the vulcanite.  The pictures show the progress of restoring that glossy pop.  I like it! With the stem drying, I look again to the stummel.  The briar dust patch is cured, and time to be file and sand the patch mound.  I use both a flat and a half-rounded needle file to gently and patiently file the patch mound on the top of the rim and on the inside lip.  I’m careful not to impact the surrounding rim briar.  After some time filing, I use a piece of 240 tightly rolled to finish the sanding, bringing the patch flush with the briar on the top and inside.  I chronicle the progress. Next, I gently clean the whole rim surface by lightly sanding it starting with micromesh pad 1500 and completing with pad 3600.  The rim looks good.To preserve the patina in the old finish, I’m willing to allow some scratches and dents to pass as badges of this Stanwell Henley’s past walk in life.  I did want to try raising some in an area where I identified a concentration of these.  I take a picture to show a closeup of the area.  I then take my wife’s iron (she always raises her eyebrows when I ask for permission and my response to her question regarding what use HER iron will be to the art of pipe restoration! 😊) and wet a rag with tap water and place the rag over the briar area to be addressed.  After the iron is heated, I place the iron over the rag which heats both water and wood creating a steaming effect on the dents and scratches.  The effect of the heating and moisture causes the briar to absorb the moisture and expand, helping to close the wounds.  This technique helped, but there remain some badges of the past for the Henley Special! Following this heating technique, I apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the entire briar surface working it in well.  I apply some to my fingers and massage the Balm into the briar.  The Balm begins with the texture of a light oil but thickens into a heavy wax as it is worked into the briar.  After the Balm absorbs for a few minutes I wipe it off the stummel surface with a microfiber cloth.  As I wipe, the Balm-treated surface loosens, and it becomes more of a buffing.  I like what the Before & After Restoration Balm does to bring out and enrich the briar. The water spot (above) disappeared as the Balm did its job.At this point, I rejoin the stummel and stem and often I find that the cleaning process has loosened the connection.  To remedy this, I choose a drill bit that is the next size larger than the bit easily fitting down the airway of the mortise. I heat the vulcanite of the tenon by painting it with a lit Bic lighter.  As the vulcanite heats, it becomes supple allowing me to work the drill bit into the tenon thus expanding the tenon’s diameter microscopically and securing a tighter fit for the tenon in the mortise.  The expansion worked so well, that I needed to loosen the tenon a bit using 470 and 600 grade papers and then 0000 steel wool.  The fit now is good. With the tenon now fitting the mortise snugly, I mount the Dremel with a cotton cloth buffing wheel, set the speed at about 40% full power and apply Blue Diamond to the entire pipe.  With this compound being the only abrasive, I’m applying to the bowl, I spend extra time working the compound over the briar.  The compound doesn’t remove the ‘badges’ I’ve left behind, but it buffs out the very fine lines in the briar surface creating that natural briar shine.   When I add wax to this natural shine, it’s like frosting on a cake!  After applying the Blue Diamond is complete, I hand buff the entire pipe with a felt cloth to remove the excess compound dust left behind before applying carnauba.I now mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, maintaining the same speed, and apply a few coats of carnauba wax to the stem and stummel.  I finish the restoration by giving the pipe a rigorous hand buffing with a micromesh cloth which raises the gloss even more.

Oh my!  When Jim commissioned this Stanwell Henley from the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! collection, could he have possibly seen what was hidden in this stately Oval Shank Billiard, Made in Denmark?  The grain and patina are beautiful.  I called the pipe, ‘stately’.  It’s remarkable, how so much beauty is hidden underneath the surface appearance and neglect of years.  Yet, as the vertical, flame grain cascades upwardly to the rim, if one looks closely at the rim, revealed there are the small bird’s eye grains formed by the cut cross-sections of the vertical grain.  I’m pleased with the small, seemingly insignificant internal lip patch to the rim – it blends well and joins the ensemble without notice.  With the bowl’s striking grain revealed, the oval shank now compliments well as it flows to the saddle stem.  I fear I’m waxing too much at this point!  Jim has the first opportunity to acquire this 1950s or 60’s Stanwell Henley Special from The Pipe Steward Store and this benefits the work we do here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Lest we forget, I begin with a ‘before’ picture for the striking contrast. Thanks for joining me!