Tag Archives: topping a bowl

Reclaiming a Yello-Bole “Imperial Carburator” Vest Pipe


Blog by Paresh Despande

Having worked on the four Free Hand pipes that I had purchased on eBay, it was time again to work on one of my grandfather’s pipe from my inheritance. I chose to work on the second “Imperial Yello-Bole Carburetor” from his collection. The first had a cracked shank and was restored by my Guru and mentor, Mr. Steve of rebornpipes, here is the link for the write up (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/04/15/pareshs-grandfathers-pipe-2-a-yello-bole-carburetor-4522-billiard/).

This particular pipe was in a battered condition with significant damage to the inner and outer edges of the rim, a large number of chips, dents and dings to the bowl and shank, two deep gouges to the bowl and a heavily oxidized stem. I was not very sure if at all I should attempt at its restoration as I knew that to mask the repairs/ fills to the gouges and chips on the bowl and the shank, I would need to stain it with a darker stain followed by a delicate polish to make the grains pop and here I was, with neither materials nor experience to carry out staining and subsequent polishing. However, Mr. Steve encouraged me to go ahead and restore it nevertheless and keep the natural finish of the pipe and the scars of the repairs as a testimony of the pipe’s journey till date!!!! Well, it always pays to follow the advice of your mentor and I embarked upon this journey to give a fresh lease of life to this old and battered war-horse!!!

The pipe is stamped on the left side of the shank as “Imperial” in fancy cursive hand over “YELLO-BOLE” in block letters while the right side of the shank bears the stamp of “MADE IN FRANCE” starting from the shank end towards the bowl and followed by the model(?) number “648” or is it “64 B”? I have this doubt since I could find a match to this shape and size during my research as per the latter stamp, but the stamp appears as former to my eyes!!!! The center bottom of the pipe has a single hole, lined by an aluminum cone, open at both ends, which protrudes into the chamber. This is followed by “carburetor” in fancy cursive small letters. The stem is devoid of any stampings or logo. Before commencing the restoration, I decided to refresh my memory about Yello-Bole pipe brand and in particular, the Carburetor model, by visiting the blog written by Mr. Steve while restoring my first Yello-Bole. The first thing that struck me as odd was the difference in stampings seen on the pipe which is on my work table!!! The pipe currently on my work table is sans the stamp of KBB in clover leaf, U.S. patent number details, Cured with real honey, stem logo of a yellow circular ring and has shape number in three digits as against four on the one restored by Mr. Steve. However, the biggest and most significant difference which has me flummoxed was the stamping “MADE IN FRANCE”!!!!!!! No amount of research and surfing the internet provided me any clue as regards the origin and dating of this piece of briar.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The first and foremost significant visual damage is seen to the rim top, inner and outer edges. It appears that the rim has been repeatedly banged against a hard surface to remove residual dottle over a prolonged period of time!!!! The damage to the rim top is in the form of dings and scratches while significant chipping and cinching is seen on the outer edge. The inner edge of the rim is out of round, apparently caused by use of a knife to remove the carbon cake. The overflow of lava from the rim top appears to be removed by scrapping the surface with a knife and in the process causing all the scratches and dings to the surface. There is a thin layer of cake on the bottom half of the chamber and appears to be a victim of over reamed chamber. The carburetor hole at the bottom of the chamber is clogged and will require to be cleaned. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber will be ascertained only after the chamber has been stripped completely of the existing cake layer.The second most significantly damaged part of the pipe is the stummel. It is covered in oils, dirt and grime of all these years of smoking and subsequent uncared for storage. The stummel surface is sticky to the touch, giving the stummel a dull, lifeless and lackluster appearance. It is peppered with a large number of chips, dents and dings. There are two significant gouges on the stummel; one on the left hand side towards the bottom and the second one is one the right hand side about an inch below the rim top. Overall, the stummel has sustained massive damage over the years due to both, rough usage and careless storage. However through all this dirt, tar, oil, grime and damage, lovely densely packed straight grains can be seen on the sides and shank. It will be a challenge to address these issues and make the grains to reveal themselves in all glory. The shank too is peppered with numerous minor dents and chips on the bottom surface as well as on the right side of the shank. The mortise is clogged and the air flow is constricted and the draw is laborious. This will need to be addressed by thorough cleaning of the same. The saddle stem is heavily oxidized with bite marks on both upper and lower surface of the stem. The lip too shows bite marks and will need to be redefined. The aluminum stinger is firmly attached inside the tenon and could not be removed. It is covered in oils, tars and grime from all the years of smoking and it appears that it has hardened, fixing the stinger inside the tenon.THE PROCESS
I started the process of restoration by reaming the chamber with my fabricated knife as the protruding aluminum cone of the carburetor prevented use of the Kleen Reem pipe reamer. 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. It was a big relief to note that there was no issue of heat fissures or cracks seen on the surface.To address the numerous dents, dings and scratches on the rim’s top surface and also to remove traces of lava overflow, I topped the rim surface on a 220 grit sand paper. Since the damage to the rim top was significant, I had applied more pressure than usual. 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.Staying with the rim, the next issue that I addressed was the rim edges, both inner and outer. With a folded piece of 180 grit sand paper pinched between my thumb and fore finger, I created a bevel on the inner edge. This addressed the issue of uneven and out of round inner edge. For addressing the outer edge, I had two options; first was to top the rim surface till the entire damaged outer rim surface was sanded out, maintaining the straight rim edge profile of the stummel. The disadvantage of this would be a significant loss of briar estate!!! The second (and easier too!!!) option was to create a bevel on the outer edge, sacrificing the original profile of the stummel. However, I envisaged that the bevel to the outer edge would add a new depth and dimension to the profile of the pipe while saving loss of briar. That decided, I created a bevel on the outer edge. Both the inner and outer edges now look much better and add a new dimension to the otherwise plain-Jane billiard shape of the bowl. I cleaned the stummel with Murphy’s oil soap and hard bristled toothbrush and rinsed the stummel under running tap water. This cleaning helps in bringing to the fore any other damage which could be hidden under all the dirt and grime. I dried the bowl with a paper towel and soft cotton cloth. With a thin, sharp and pointed knife, I cleaned out all the fills and gouges. I scrubbed the stummel surface clean with isopropyl alcohol to have a clean surface for a fresh fill. I decided to move ahead with only CA superglue for filling the chips and gouges. I spot filled these chips and gouges with superglue and set it aside for curing. Turning my attention to the stem, I flamed the surface with a Bic lighter to raise the tooth chatter and deeper bite marks to the surface as much as is possible. I followed it up with sanding the stem surface with a 220 grit sand paper to match the raised bite marks with the stem surface and also remove the oxidation before the fill. The deeper bite marks were filled with CA superglue and set aside to cure. After the fills on the stummel had completely cured, I sanded these with a flat head needle file to match them with the stummel surface. This was followed by sanding the fills and the stummel surface to achieve a match as well as remove the minor scratches and cinches on the surface. I frequently wiped the sanded surface with a moist cloth to remove the briar dust and also to check the progress of my work. Once I was satisfied with the match, 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. At this stage of restoration, the entire bowl, rim top surface and shank is now looking fresh and clean with beautiful densely packed straight grains popping out in all their glory!!!! Even though the fills are prominently visible, in my view, they lend a battle scarred warrior like character to the pipe. While I worked the stummel, the fillings in the stem had cured. I sanded the fills with a flat head needle file. To further match the fills with the surface of the stem, I sanded it with 220, 400 and 800 grit sand paper. I wiped the stem with cotton pad dipped in alcohol to remove the resultant dust. I rubbed some extra virgin olive oil in to the stem and set it aside to be absorbed in to stem. I polished the stem with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000. I rub a little extra virgin olive oil in to the stem after every three pads. I finish the polishing of the stem by rubbing a small quantity of Paragon wax and giving it a final polish with a soft cotton cloth. The stem is now nice, smooth and shiny. Now with the external restoration and cleaning of both the stummel and the stem completed, I proceeded to cleaning the internals of the stem and the shank. As I had observed during my initial visual inspection, the stinger was very firmly attached inside the tenon. To clean the stem air way, I had to separate the stinger from the tenon. I was certain that the stinger was a push-fit type and much easy to deal with. I carefully heated the stinger with the flame of a Bic lighter and wrapping a cloth on the stinger, with careful anti-clock wise rotations, dislodged the stinger from the tenon. I cleaned the internals of the shank with cue-tips, regular and bristled pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol. The mortise was cleaned using a shank brush. With a fabricated dental spatula, I scrapped the walls of the mortise and further cleaned with pipe cleaners till they came out white. Similarly, I cleaned the air way in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol. I cleaned the stinger of all the accumulated oils and tars with paper towels after soaking the stinger in isopropyl alcohol and reattached it in the tenon. The internals are now clean and the draw is full, easy and open. I was really not surprised at how dirty were the internals of the shank and stem as can be seen from the condition of the pipe cleaners in these pictures. To finish the restoration, 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. Using a cotton cloth and brute muscle power, I gave it a final polish. I re-attach the stem with the stummel. The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the photographs speak for themselves. 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!!!!!

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Recommissioning a Comoy’s Moorgate 102 of Italy


Blog by Dal Stanton

I saw this attractive Comoy’s Moorgate on the eBay auction block last year and fortunately provided enough of a bid to bring it home to Bulgaria.  What attracted me to this Comoy’s was the interesting finish which is a darkened, orange hue with nice feathered grain.  This Comoy’s Moorgate also got Jim’s attention after he saw it posted on my website in the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! collection I list online for pipe men and women to commission.  I enjoyed communicating with Jim via email very much.  Jim not only commissioned the Comoy’s, but he also commissioned a very interesting, older Stanwell Henley Special which I acquired along with 2 brother Stanwell Henleys – 3 pipes I’ve been looking forward to restoring and learning more about.  Along with these 2 pipes that Jim commissioned, were his encouraging words of appreciation for the work we’re doing with the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Jim was glad that the pipes he was commissioning benefited these efforts.  Thanks, Jim!  Here are a few pictures of the pipes – the Comoy’s and the Stanwell Henley Special – Jim’s is the Saddle Stem Billiard in the middle.  When Jim commissioned these pipes, I’m grateful that he also agreed to be patient as the pipes gradually made it to the top of the queue.  I take some additional pictures to take a closer look at the Comoy’s Moorgate on my worktable here in Sofia, Bulgaria, on the 10th floor of a formerly Communist block apartment building. The nomenclature identifies this Comoy’s as a post-Cadogan era pipe which dates it no older than the early 1980’s when the Cadogan merger took place.  On the left side of the shank is ‘COMOY’S’ [over] ‘MOORGATE’.  The right side of the shank is stamped with the shape number, ‘102’.   The upper side of the stem has the well-known ‘C’ Comoy’s stamp and the underside is stamped, ‘ITALY’. All the stampings point to a post-merger Comoy’s pipe.  The COM being Italy and not ‘Made in London England’ confirms this as Cadogan farmed out the manufacturing.  Interesting also is the shape number, ‘102’.  Pipedia provides a Comoy’s Shape Number Chart that identifies the 102 as being an army mounted, large, straight Pot which does not correspond to the Half Bent Billiard on my table.  The chart most likely pointing to earlier shape numbers.Pipephil.eu provides a Comoy’s Moorgate that matches up with what I’m seeing before me – nomenclature and stampings.  It references a Comoy’s second brand with the name ‘Moorgate’.  I look up the reference and it is a different line altogether – nomenclature and stem stamps and COM as ‘Made in England’.Looking at the condition of the Comoy’s Moorgate on my worktable, it is generally in good condition.  I take a few more pictures to look at some trouble areas.  The chamber has moderate cake build up and some significant lava flow caked on the rim.  The bowl surface has some dents which I’ll try to lift with the hot iron method to preserve the finish.  The stem has moderate oxidation and tooth chatter – no huge problems detected there. To begin, I run a pipe cleaner wetted with alcohol through the draft way and then put the stem in a bath of Before & After Deoxidizer along with several other pipes in the queue.  After several hours soaking, I fish out the Comoy’s stem and allow the Deoxidizer fluid to drain off.  I then take a cotton cloth wetted with alcohol and wipe off the raised oxidation. I continue wiping off oxidation and conditioning the stem by wetting the cotton pad with light paraffin oil.  The Deoxidizer seems to have done a good job. Next, I address the chamber cleaning by reaming it with the Pipnet Reaming Kit. To help with the cleanup, I put down some paper towel to catch the dislodged carbon.  Beginning with the smallest of four blade heads, I ream the chamber. I only use 2 of the 4 blades available.  I follow this by using the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool to fine tune the reaming.  I also use the Fitsall Tool to scrape gently an internal rim bevel that emerges from underneath the carbon cake.  I also use my thumbnail to scratch the carbon off the rim.  Following this, I wrap a piece of 240 grit paper around a Sharpie Pen and sand the chamber.  Finally, to remove the carbon dust, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  With the chamber cleaned, I inspect the chamber walls and I find no issues with heat fissures or cracking. Turning now to the external briar surface, I use undiluted Murphy’s Soap on a cotton pad and clean.  I take my time on the rim to remove the lava.  After cleaning the surface, I use cool tap water to rinse the bowl.Turning now to the internals of the bowl, I use cotton buds and pipe cleaners with alcohol to clean. I also use a dental spatula to scrape the mortise walls more quickly removing the built-up tars and oils.  In time the buds and pipe cleaners start coming out cleaner.  Good for now.  I move on!To achieve a deeper cleaning and refreshing of the internals, I use a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  Using a cotton ball to create a wick, I stretch and twist it and then insert it through the mortise and into the airway.  I then fill the bowl with kosher salt and place it in an egg carton to provide stability.  With a large eye dropper, I then fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  I top the alcohol in a few minutes after it’s absorbed into the salt.  I put the stummel aside for several hours to soak.  After some time, the salt and the wick were soiled.  I tossed the expended salt, wipe the bowl with paper towel, and blow through the mortise to remove salt crystals.  To make sure all was clean, I use a cotton bud and pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% and they are clean.Putting the cleaned bowl aside, I take the flat needle file and work on the button.  I file the button lips, upper and lower to redefine them.  To erase the scratches of the file, I follow by sanding the bit area, upper and lower with 240 grade sanding paper.  I also sand the entire stem to remove further residual oxidation.  I’m careful to avoid the stem stampings while sanding.  To remove the scratches left by the 240 grade paper, I wet sand using 600 grade paper followed by applying 0000 steel wool buffing to the entire stem.In order to further enrich the vulcanite, I use Before & After Fine and Extra Fine Polish in that order.  I put some Fine polish on my fingers and work the polish in.  After some minutes, I wipe it off.  I follow with the same process with the Extra Fine Polish, giving it some minutes and wiping it off and buffing up the stem.  The stem is cleaning up very nicely.Turning again to the stummel, there are 2 significant dents that I want to see if I can minimize using the heating method with an iron.  I take pictures of the two places I have in mind.  I heat the iron and dampen a cotton handkerchief with water.  I place the cloth over the dent and press the hot iron against the cloth over the dent in the briar.  The heat and moisture are supposed to expand the dent and in this case it does. Interestingly, taking a picture of the two dents afterwards, what emerged is a roughness caused by the heat. Hmmm, not sure why that happened.  The pictures show what I see before and after heating. To remove the roughness caused by the heating and to remove the normal wear nicks, I wet sand the stummel using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400.  I then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  The grain on this Comoy’s Moorgate is unique as it emerges through the micromesh process.  It looks great! To enrich the natural grain of the bowl, I apply Before & After Restoration Balm.  I apply some Balm on my fingers and work it into the briar surface.  The Balm starts with a thinner oil-like viscosity then gradually thickens to a waxy consistency.  After I apply the Balm thoroughly, I let the bowl stand for several minutes while the Balm absorbs.  I then wipe off the Balm using a microfiber cloth and gradually, as the Balm is removed, I transition to buffing with the cloth. I take a picture while the Balm is doing its thing and after. I’m liking it a lot!Returning to the stem, I now continue with the micromesh sanding phase.  I begin by wet sanding using pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sanding using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 micromesh pads, I apply Obsidian Oil to continue revitalizing the vulcanite.  The rubber has that glossy pop!  I put the stem aside to dry. Next, I want to refresh the stem stamping, ‘ITALY’.  To do this I place a drop of white acrylic paint over the lettering.  I then use a cotton pad to blotter the excess paint, thinning it so that it dries rapidly. With the flat edge of a toothpick, I then gently scrape the excess paint off the stem.  The pictures show the progress. I now reunite the stem and the bowl and mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel.  I set the speed at about 40% full power and apply Blue Diamond compound to the entire pipe.  Afterwards, I wipe/buff the pipe with a felt cloth to clear it of leftover compound dust.  While I was buffing with the felt cloth, I note that the stem fitting is a little loose for my liking.  This sometimes happens after cleaning the pipe well and scraping the mortise.  To remedy this, I fit a drill bit just larger than the airway diameter and heat the tenon with a Bic lighter.  As the vulcanite tenon heats, it becomes supple allowing me to insert the bit into the airway and it expands the tenon slightly.  I test the fit and it works perfectly, and I am satisfied.  After rejoining stem and stummel, I then mount another cotton cloth wheel to the Dremel, maintaining 40% speed and apply several coats of carnauba wax.  I finish the restoration by giving the entire pipe a rigorous hand buffing using a microfiber cloth to raise the shine further.I’m pleased with the results of this Comoy’s Moorgate.  The briar is spectacular with its diversion of colors and swirls of grain.  Patches of orange settle in the grain knots and from there the colors are an eye catching kaleidoscopes. It is a unique piece of briar and the half-bent Billiard nicely rests in the palm.  Jim commissioned this Comoy’s from the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! collection and he will have the first opportunity to acquire it from The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

A Tiny 2 Star BBB 8881 Apple/Globe Provided An Interesting Challenge


Blog by Steve Laug

When I spoke with a fellow here in Vancouver who had a pipe that he wanted me to fix it sounded like a simple repair. He said that it had a very loosely fitting stem. He asked if he could drop by to show it to me and see if I could fix it. From past experience I have learned to never jump to conclusions about what sounded like an easy repair. When he arrived he showed me his GBD Faux Spigot. It turned out to need far more work than just tightening a loose stem. I wrote about that restoration in a previous blog (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/11/03/redoing-a-poorly-restored-ebay-gbd-super-q-9436/). We talked about his GBD for a bit and he made the decision to have me do a restoration on it. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small plastic bag with a little BBB 2 Star apple of globe shaped pipe. It was stamped BBB in a diamond on the left side of the shank with two ** – one on either side of the diamond. ON the right side it was stamped Made in England over the shape number 8881. He said that he had found it at his parents’ house and really no one there knew where it came from.

Here is what I saw. Starting with externals. The pipe was small – kind of a pocket pipe. The grain on the bowl was quite stunning – a mix of flame and birdseye all around the bowl and shank. The rim top was coated with a thick lava coat and it went into the bowl. The inner edge of the bowl was in rough shape having been hacked clean with a knife. There was a crack on the right side of the shank curving to the underside. It looked to me it was made by the poorly made stem being shoved into the shank. The stem was larger in diameter than the shank and had been rounded over with a file. There were deep bite marks on the surface ahead of the button on both sides. Moving to the internals. The end of the tenon was carved with a knife to make it fit the mortise in the small shank. The inside of the shank was dirty but less so than I expected. The inside of the bowl had a light cake but most of that was gone from the knife job that had left a wounded inner edge on the rim. Looking at the pipe I explained what I would have to do to bring it back to life and restore it to use. It would need, cleaning, reshaping on the rim, a band on the cracked shank that would leave the stamping readable, and a reworking of the stem to make it a fitting addition to the lovely briar of the bowl. The pipe was going to be a fun challenge. I took these photos to give you an idea of what I saw. The previous pipeman who had fit a new stem to an old favourite pipe had done a functional job but it looked rough. It was pretty clean on the inside so it was cared for. It must have been a great smoking pipe for him to fit a new stem and not give up on it when the previous one broke or was lost. It was smokable. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition. It is hard to see but the rim top was not smooth. The lava build up was pretty thick and there were some deep nicks and chips in the flat top. The close up photos of the stem reveal the scratches in the vulcanite, the tooth marks and the worn and ill-defined button.  The oversized diameter – prettified to look nice is clear in the photos. I took photos from the side of the pipe to show the stamping on the shank and the prettified stem. In the second photo you can see the crack in the shank curving downward to the underside.I decided to address the cracked shank first. With the crack as large as it was and movable I did not want to further damage it when I worked on the stem and fit of the tenon. I knew that it needed to be banded but that would cover the stamping on the shank so adjustments would have to be made. I used a Dremel and sanding drum to reduce the size of the shank to fit the band I had chosen. I did not take of too much briar and I only damaged the M in Made In England as part of it would end up being covered by the band.I repaired the crack in the shank with super glue and pressure fit the band onto the shank to the point of the end of the sanded portion. I used a Dremel and sanding drum to cut back the band to the width that I wanted. Compare the photos above with the one below to see how much I took off of the band. I topped the band on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper and smooth out the sharp edge with 1500 grit micromesh. I decided that since I was already working with the Dremel and sanding drum that I would take down the excess diameter on the stem as well. I reduced it to sit snugly against the band giving the pipe a classy look.I cleaned up around the inside edge of the band and edge on the shank with a folded piece of 2220 grit sandpaper to smooth things out and make the fit and transition smooth. I lightly sanded the blade portion of the stem and the area of the tooth marks next to the button with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the oxidation and clean it up. I fit the stem in the shank and took a photo of the pipe at this point in the process. It was beginning to look like a classic BBB to my eye. With the stem roughly fit to the shank it was time to address the bowl top. I topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. At that point I called it a night. I had to catch a train down to the southern part of Washington from Vancouver in the morning so I thought I would bag up a couple of pipes I was working on and take them with me.I caught the train south from Vancouver, BC at 6:30am. Once we had our seats we were in for an 8 hour train ride. I figure it would be a good opportunity to work on these two pipes. You can see my work table in the photo below. I used the fold down table. It had a lip around it so I spread out a couple of napkins for the dust and went to work on the pipes.I started working on the BBB by addressing the damage to the inner edge of the rim. It was significant with cuts and burns. My topping worked had helped with the top damage and smoothed that out but I need to work on the rim edge. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the sharp edges and bring the bowl back to round. Once I had the rim as round as I could get it and smoothed out the damaged edge I polished it with micromesh sanding pads. I polished the bowl and the rim at the same time. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp napkin after each pad. I touched up the stain around the front of the band and stained the rim top and inner edge with Maple and Cherry stain pens. Together the two stains matched the rest of the bowl.I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little wall and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The rim matches well but still needs to be polished and buffed to raise a shine on it. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to reshape the button and also to smooth out the marks left by the Dremel when reducing the diameter of the stem. I sanded the tooth marks near the button on each side of the stem to smooth them out.I polished the stem, tenon and metal work with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I was able to remove the damage on the tenon and polish out the dripping varnish on the metal adornment. The stem looked much better at this point in the process. I the polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches and raise the shine. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and 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. This turned out to be a beautiful little pocket pipe in terms of shape and finish. The new nickel band adds a touch of class in my opinion and gives the pipe a new elegance. I look forward to hearing what the fellow who dropped it off for repair thinks of it once he has it in hand and is smoking it. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 4 inches, Height: 1 3/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 inch, Chamber diameter: 3/4 of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.

Redoing a Poorly Restored EBay GBD Super ‘Q’ 9436


Blog by Steve Laug

Probably one of the most irritating parts of the art of pipe restoration is when a pipe comes to me from an EBay seller who sold it as fully restored and ready to smoke and it was not. The story of this pipe started with that description. On the weekend I received a call from a fellow here in Vancouver who had a pipe that had a very loosely fitting stem. He asked if he could drop by to show it to me and see if I could fix it. From past experience I never jump to conclusions about what sounded like an easy repair. When he arrived he showed me this GBD Faux Spigot. It had a nickel ferrule and a nickel adornment just above the Delrin tenon. The tenon was drilled out for a 6mm filter. The stamping on the bowl reads on the left side GBD in an oval over Super ‘Q’. On the right side it had a Made in London over England COM stamp with the shape number 9436 next to that. On the underside of the shank it has an M stamped next to the ferrule. I asked him where he had picked up the pipe and he said that he had picked it up on EBay. Knowing that, I began to look more carefully at the pipe.

Here is what I saw. Starting with externals. The rim and exterior of the pipe had been coated with a shiny varnish coat with some significant grime on the rim top under the varnish. The nickel had also been coated with the varnish and had run on the stem adornment. The stem also had some deep bite marks on the surface ahead of a very worn and ill-defined button on both sides. Moving to the internals. The end of the tenon had a lot of tarry buildup in it from smoking the filter pipe without a filter. Not much effort seems to have been made to remove it. The inside of the shank was also covered with a tobacco juice lacquer that was also gumming up the airway. When I blew through it, the draught was constricted. The inside of the bowl was another story. The bowl had been lightly reamed leaving behind a fairly thick cake that was checked and cracked giving the bowl interior a very fractured look. The bottom half of the bowl had not seen the blade of the reamer and was dirty. There was debris in the airway as it entered the bowl. I have to say that the pipe was a mess and the work that had been done would make my job harder.

To say that it was restored and ready to smoke was an outright lie. If it had been cleaned and the only issue was the cake I would have been good with that. If the rim top had been cleaned before the shiny coat I would have been good with that. But to cover it up and make it shiny to hide a poor job is deceptive at worst and shoddy craftsmanship at best. I pointed out the issues with the pipe to the fellow who had stopped by and suggested that he have me clean it up for him the way I think that it should have been cleaned. He was game so the pipe stayed with me when he left. I took some photos of the pipe before I started my work to show the general condition. I took a close up photo of the rim top to show the condition. It is hard to see but the rim top is not smooth. There are chunks of grime/lava under the shiny top coat. The close up photos of the stem reveal the scratches in the vulcanite, the tooth marks and the worn and ill-defined button.  There is also some sagging shiny coat on the nickel stem adornment that is visible.I cleaned the internals of the shank and stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. The debris that came out was astonishing for a “restored” pipe. I scraped the walls of the mortise with a sharp pen knife to remove the lacquer build up there. When I finished the pipe smelled cleaner.I reamed the bowl back to bare briar with a PipNet pipe reamer. I cleaned up the debris with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and sanded the walls with a piece of dowel wrapped in 220 grit sandpaper. I wanted to see behind all the cake what the walls looked like. Sadly they were as I expected – very checked with spidery cracks. I took a few photos of the damage to the inside of the bowl to give an idea of the extent of the checking and fissures on interior walls. This is typically caused by smoking too hot.To protect the bowl wall I mixed up a batch of charcoal powder and sour cream to make a paste. I pressed the mixture into the crevices and fissures on the walls of the bowl and painted a top coat of the mixture with a folded pipe cleaner. I set the bowl aside to cure and turned my attention to the damaged stem.I used a needle file to redefine the button on both sides of the stem and sanded the tooth marks out the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I filled in the remaining deeper tooth mark with super glue and when it cured sanded it smooth to match the surface of the stem.I polished the stem, tenon and metal work with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I was able to remove the damage on the tenon and polish out the dripping varnish on the metal adornment. The stem looked much better at this point in the process. Once the bowl coating cured I worked on the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – 3200-12000 to remove the tarry deposits around the surface. I scrubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm and after it sat for a short time I buffed it off with a cotton cloth. Here is what it looked like at that point. I the polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches and raise the shine. I gave the bowl and the stem several coats of carnauba wax and 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. This turned out to be a beautiful pipe in terms of shape and finish. I am looking forward to hearing what the fellow who dropped it off for repair thinks of it once he has it in hand and is smoking it. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 7/8 of an inch. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me. Thanks for tolerating my rant at the beginning about redoing EBay “restored” pipes. Also if any of you have ever heard of the GDB Super ‘Q’ line let me know. Thanks for looking and thanks for any help you might give.

Salvaging a ‘Really’ Poor Richard’s of Italy Giant Billiard


Blog by Dal Stanton

Let’s be honest. When I saw this Poor Richard’s on the eBay auction block I thought the name was a joke by the seller.  He WAS huge (L: 6 3/4”, H: 2 1/8”, Rim W: 1 1/2″, Chamber W: 7/8”, Chamber D: 1 7/8”, Weight: 74gr), no doubt, but his condition could qualify him for the title: King of the Basket Pipe Realm.  His condition was indeed poor and adding to the ‘joke’ was that he was displayed on satiny royal purple material.  But the clincher was coming. Adding insult to injury, the seller’s byline description under Poor Richard’s picture was: Poor Richard’s Classic Bulldog Large Estate Pipe Beautiful !!!  Nice  !!!  Bulldog?  I felt sorry for him.  I placed a bid and when the auction ended, it was no surprise that mine was the only bid seeking a new life for Poor Richard’s.  My wife’s response when she first saw Poor Richard’s was that Poor Richard’s dog got a hold of him!  Here are the pictures I saw. After bringing Poor Richard’s back to Bulgaria, I put him on my website in the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! section where my friend and fellow Pipe Dreamer from India, Paresh, saw him.  Poor Richard’s became the fourth pipe Paresh commissioned – all of them on the larger side and each one of them advancing our work here in Bulgaria benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria, helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.

Taking more pictures on my worktable on the 10th floor of a formerly Communist ‘Block’ apartment building, the nomenclature on the left shank is ‘PoorRichard’s’ in what I call an ‘Old World’ script.  There are no other markings on the shank.  The stem is stamped with an interlocking ‘PR’.  The bottom of the stem is stamped with the COM, Italy.When I began doing the research on this Poor Richard’s, I recalled that rebornpipes’ contributor, Al Jones (aka: Upshallfan), had recently posted a restoration of a Poor Richards 9438 Cordovan Rhodesian shape.  Reading Al’s write-up was helpful because it clued me into the ‘mystery’ surrounding the origins of the Poor Richard’s name.  I noticed that our pipes shared the ‘Old World’ script nomenclature as well as the interlocking ‘PR’ stem stamp.  The obvious difference was the COMs – his, London, England and mine, Italy and his included a shape number, and mine, without.As I’ve done in the past with much benefit, I wrote to Al asking about the differences between our Poor Richard’s and what to make of the differing COMs?  His response was helpful:

Dal

Unfortunately, there is nothing but speculation about these Poor Richard pipes.  The one shop here, with that name, can’t even conclusively determine if they had shop pipes.

I suspect it was a shop pipe, made by various makers for this shop.  But a shop in Montana having shop pipes doesn’t exactly make sense either.  Usually shops with their own pipes were larger, and in metro areas, not out in the wilderness of Montana.

Poor Richard pipes are not listed in “Who Made That PIpe”, so my guess is still a shop pipe.  Perhaps that Montana shop was bigger than I presumed. 

I suspect Italian companies, like GBD made shop pipes as well.  Perhaps that one was made by Savinelli or other?  Without a shape number, it’s impossible to determine.

Have fun restoring it!

Al

Al referenced the pipe shop in Montana that in a subsequent email he referenced that Steve had also worked on a Poor Richard’s attributed to the ‘Poor Richard’s’ pipe and tobacco shop in Bozeman, Montana. However, Al said that Steve’s Poor Richard’s pipe had a totally different nomenclature with Montana stamped on the pipe.  I found this write up on Rebornpipes and what a write up!  It was one of Steve’s and Charles Lemon’s classic collaborations including a pinning tutorial.  When these two masters get together, its fun to see the wonders happen!  (See this post which is worth the read:  A Humpty Dumpty Cross Canada Project – Could this Poor Richards Select Square Shank Billiard 9489 ever be whole again?)  Steve’s research on the Montana shop is good and saved me time and steps.  Since Steve’s write up in 2016, the website had changed and a description of Poor Richard’s history beginning in 1962 can be found here: History.  The following pictures show the shop early on and what it is today.Even with the mystery and the discrepancies with the nomenclatures, in researching different pipe shop pipes in the past (L. J. Peretti, Pipe Pub), I found that it’s common to have pipes manufactured in various places.  Another indicator that the Poor Richard’s nomenclature refers to a shop is simply because it is possessive – Richard’s, pointing to something else.  Whether there’s another Poor Richard’s shop other than the one in Bozeman, I don’t know.  This question has been lost to history.

The condition of the giant Poor Richard’s before me now is poor. I take more pictures to take a closer look. The chamber has moderate cake build up that needs to be removed to inspect the condition of the chamber.  The lava flow on the rim is thick.  The stummel surface reminds one of a moonscape with all the craters in need of attention!  Along with the pits and holes there are dents and scrapes.  The oxidation on the stem is joined by bites and compressions on the lower and upper bit.  With a better understanding of the Poor Richard’s name, I begin the salvage of the giant Billiard by running pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% through the stem and then adding it to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer along with several other commissioned pipes in the queue.  The Poor Richard’s stummel and stem are first on the left.  After letting it soak overnight, I fish out the Poor Richard’s stem and let the fluid drain off.  I then push a pipe cleaner through it to help remove the Deoxidizer.  I then wipe the stem with cotton pads wetted with isopropyl 95% to remove the raised oxidation from the vulcanite stem.  After wiping off with the alcohol, I then wipe again using a cotton pad and light paraffin oil (mineral oil) to clean and condition the stem further.  Finally, I run another pipe cleaner through the stem dipped in isopropyl 95%.  The pictures show the process. Taking the stummel, I use the Pipnet Reaming Kit to clean the chamber.  After putting paper towel down on the table for easier clean up, I start reaming using the third largest blade head since the chamber is so large.  I also use the fourth and largest blade to ream.  Following the reaming, I use the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool to scrape the chamber walls removing additional carbon cake – especially down in the floor of the chamber with the difficult angles.  Then, after wrapping 240 grit paper around a Sharpie Pen, I sand the chamber walls removing additional carbon and smoothing the chamber surface.  I clean the chamber next using a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  While inspecting the chamber, I do see some hairline heat cracks that are very small, but not serious enough to warrant repair.  Next, using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap I work on the external briar surface using a cotton pad.  I also use a brass wire brush on the rim to remove the lava and follow by carefully scraping the rim surface with a flat knife edge.  After scrubbing, I rinse the stummel in the sink with cool tap water.Turning to the internals, I use pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95% to clean the mortise and airway. I also use a small dental spatula tool to scrape tars and oils off the mortise walls.  The cleaning wasn’t too bad. Later, I’ll continue cleaning the internals with a kosher salt and alcohol soak.With the internals cleaned, I now look at the stummel surface.  I have several fills to dig out and to fill.  My main tool in doing this is a sharp dental probe.  The goal is to only have a solid base in the holes – either old filler material or briar.  It takes quite a bit of time, but I move from fill to fill doing the needed excavation work. With the holes excavated, I prepare a batch of briar dust and CA glue patch to apply to the problem areas.  I scoop briar dust in a small mound on an index card and put a glob of thick CA glue next to the briar dust.  Using a dental spatula, I mix briar dust into the CA glue until I reach a thicker consistency, like molasses.  I then trowel the patch mixture into each of the holes leaving excess to be sanded down after cured.  The pictures show the process. With the Briar Dust patches curing, I turn to the stem.  After the soak in the Before & After Deoxidizer, much of the oxidation was removed.  But looking more closely, there remains oxidation but it’s much subdued. I decide to place the stem in another soak – this time with OxiClean.  I put a pipe cleaner through the stem and put it in the OxiClean to let it soak overnight.With the day ending, I continue the cleaning and refreshing of the stummel internals.  To do this I employ a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  First, I form a wick by stretching and twisting a cotton ball and with a stiff piece of wire, I stuff it down the mortise and airway.  It will serve to draw out tars and oils.  Then I fill the bowl with kosher salt and place the stummel in an egg crate to keep it stable.  With a large eyedropper, I fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes, I top off the alcohol as it is absorbed and turn out the lights.The next morning, there isn’t too much discoloration of the salt which means I didn’t put in enough alcohol or that the internals are clean.  The wick is darker.  I toss the expended salt into the waste, wipe the bowl with paper towel and blow through the mortise to remove remaining salt crystal.  I then use a shank brush on both the bowl and the mortise – blowing again.  Finally, to make sure all is clean and ready to go, I wet a cotton bud and pipe cleaner with isopropyl 95% and run them through the mortise and airway.  They come out clean and it’s time to move on. I put the stem in an OxiClean soak through the night and it’s time to fish it out.  I take a picture of the additional oxidation that has been raised and I take the stem to the sink and wet sand the stem with 600 grade paper to remove the oxidation.  It looks cleaner now after sanding.Looking more closely now at the bit area, there are good sized compressions.  The button also has some bite marks.  The first step is to use the heating method to see if it will expand the vulcanite reducing the severity of the compressions.  I use a Bic lighter and paint the upper- and lower-bit areas. The areas were lessoned, but not erased by heating the vulcanite. I then use 240 grade paper and sand the upper- and lower-bit areas as well as redefine the button with a flat needle file.  I take pictures of each step. First, the upper bit progress:After heating:After 240 sanding and filing:Progression of the lower bit area:After heating:After 240 sanding and filing: I’ve sanded out as much as will sand and now I will patch the areas that did not sand out.  I first wipe the stem with alcohol to clean the area.  I then apply black CA glue to the areas.  And I wait, and wait, and wait….  Well, I just discovered that Black CA glue can go flat and lose its ability to bond.  Reading the directions, is says to refrigerate to prolong shelf life.  Well, the shelf life must have been reached.  I wipe the old CA glue off and thankfully, I had purchased another bottle of Hyper Bond Black Rubber Reinforced CA glue.  I discover that the bottle mouth is larger than the squirt spouts that I have so I end up troweling a small bit of the glue on the end of a pointed dental spatula and apply it to the spot.  It works!  To advance the curing time I spray the upper and lower patches with an accelerator which does the trick.  The first picture, upper that didn’t cure and the new glue on the lower.  New bottle of glue is heading for the fridge! Next, taking a flat needle file I start filing the black CA patches staying on top of the glue mounds.  I then follow by using 240 grade sanding paper to bring the excess CA glue to flush with the vulcanite surface.  First, pictures showing the upper bit: The next step with the stem is to wet sand it with 600 grade paper then I follow by buffing the stem with 0000 steel wool to prepare the vulcanite surface for the micromesh pad phase of sanding.  The patches on the bit blended very nicely.I put the stem aside because I’m anxious to get started on the Poor Richard’s stummel.  I decide to start from the top and work down.  I will establish fresh lines for the rim and remove the surface scratches by topping the stummel.  I first use 240 grade paper on the chopping board and invert the stummel and rotate the stummel over the paper. After the 240 paper, I use 600 grade paper for another few rotations.  It looks good. To dress this Poor Richard’s up a bit, I create an internal bevel.  To me, an internal bevel softens the rim lines and is a classy touch.  I cut the bevel initially using a rolled piece of coarse 120 grade paper then follow with 240 and 600.  I simply pinch the rolls of sand paper under my thumb and rotate around the internal circumference of the rim.  I like it. Now, time to work on filing and sanding all the briar dust putty patches all over the stummel surface.  I use the flat needle file to work the mounds down to near the briar surface then I finish off with 240 grit paper, bringing the patch flush with the surface.  The pictures show the process.  Lots of filing and sanding! With the patches all repaired, I use sanding sponges to sand the entire stummel to remove additional nicks and scratches and to blend the patch areas.  I start with a coarse sponge, follow with a medium then light sponges. I like the way sponge sanding cleans up a rough bowl.Moving on to the micromesh stage, I wet sand the stummel with pads 1500 to 2400 then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I love the way the micromesh process teases out the briar grain. This Poor Richard’s is looking good! To mask the plethora of fills scattered on this Italian Poor Richard’s stummel, I will give him a dark stain.  I use Fiebing’s Dark Brown Leather Dye to do the job.  With it being an aniline based dye, later I can wipe the bowl with alcohol to blend and lighten as I choose.  I assemble the components used in applying dye on my worktable.  I mount a cork in the mortise to act as a handle and I pour the dye into a shot glass.  I use a folded pipe cleaner to apply the dye and a lit candle to flame the aniline dye.  I begin by wiping the stummel with alcohol to clean the surface.  I then warm the stummel using a hot air grain. This expands the briar grain aiding in it being more receptive to the dye.  Using the pipe cleaner, I then apply dye liberally to the entire stummel making sure to cover the rim well.  I then ‘flame’ the stummel with the lit candle and the alcohol immediately combusts leaving the pigment sealed in the grain.  After letting the stummel ‘rest’ a few minutes, I repeat the process of applying dye and flaming.  I then put the stummel aside to rest for several hours helping to assure that the dye is set and will not rub off later on hands when the pipe is put back into service.  The pictures show the process. With the flamed stummel resting, I turn again to the stem.  Using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand the stummel.  Following this, I dry sand using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 1200.  After each set of three micromesh pads, I apply a coat of Obsidian Oil to the stem to revitalize the vulcanite.  The stem is looking good. The stained stummel has rested for about 24 hours and it’s time to unwrap the flame crust. After mounting a 1 inch felt buffing wheel on the Dremel, I set the speed to the lowest RPM and apply the more abrasive compound, Tripoli, to remove the crust revealing the newly stained briar surface.  As I have refined my technique using the Dremel during the compound phases, I’ve learned that using a felt buffing wheel and Tripoli allows me to have more control over the degree of opaqueness allowed through the stain, especially when using darker stains like with this Poor Richard’s.  When I begin removing the crust with the felt wheel and the coarser Tripoli compound, the initial pass of the buffing process removes the top crusty layer, but thick, ‘blotched’ stain remains.  These blotches, or darker patches of stain hide the grain underneath.  After this first pass, my practice is to purge the wheel quickly on the side of the chopping board that is on my lap, providing the work platform for all the buffing.  After I purge the wheel of the thick stain residue from the flaming, I load more Tripoli to the felt wheel and then begin additional passes over the same area – frequently purging and reloading the felt wheel with Tripoli.  Through this process I can determine how the grain is presented.  More Tripoli buffing, the lighter hues are raised in the grain, giving more definition.  When I’m working an area where a patch is located, I tend to allow it to remain darker to enhance the masking.  After staining, I would say that this phase applying the Tripoli is the most critical for the finished look of the grain.  Why?  The coarse Tripoli combined with the coarser felt wheel does the heavy lifting by increasing the opaqueness of the stain when desired which sets the stage for the finished look.  The following less coarse compounds, such as Blue Diamond, and using the cotton wheel, provides more buffing of what is there rather than remove it.  The pictures below give a hint of what I’m describing.  For those who use a Dremel, I hope this is helpful. To blend the stained finish, I lightly wipe the stummel with a cotton pad wetted with alcohol.  I don’t need to lighten the stummel, only blend.After wiping down the stummel with the cotton pad, the Tripoli with felt wheel had lightened more than I wanted in order to provide a darker shading to blend and to mask the fills.  I decide to stain the stummel again, but the second time around, I use a cotton cloth buffing wheel and Tripoli instead of the more aggressive felt wheel.  Saving on pictures repeating the same process, here is the stummel after the second staining and flaming.  Again, I wait several hours allowing the stain to rest.Following the Tripoli compound, I mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel in the Dremel, increase the speed to about 40% full power, and apply Blue Diamond compound to both the stem and stummel which I reunite.  After completing the application of Blue Diamond, I wipe/buff the pipe with a felt cloth to remove the residual compound dust in preparation for the wax application.Before applying wax, I refresh the Poor Richard’s stem stamping, the interlocking ‘PR’ and the country of manufacturing stamp, ‘Italy’.  Using white acrylic paint, I use a pointed cotton tip to apply paint to the stamps.  While still wet I lightly wipe the excess paint off leaving the stamps filled.  It works well, and the Poor Richard’s is shaping up well! To finish the buffing stage, I mount another cotton cloth wheel to the Dremel, leaving the speed at 40%, and I apply carnauba wax to stem and stummel.  I follow by giving the pipe a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth.

I’m pleased with the transformation of the Poor Richard’s.  The dark brown dye helped to mask the repairs done to the stummel and it looks great.  This straight Billiard is a classic shape and as large as this Poor Richard’s is, I believe it will serve its new steward well.  Paresh commissioned him from the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! section on The Pipe Steward site.  He will have first opportunity to acquire the Poor Richard’s from the The Pipe Steward Store which benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

Resurrecting a Tired and Worn 1937 Dr. Grabow Special 4914 Apple


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on my restoration table is an interesting older pipe that appears to be made out of walnut or some other hard wood. It was tired and worn looking with the remnants of what appeared to be an oxblood stain in the wood. The stamping was dirty and worn but readable nonetheless. On the left side the pipe is stamped Dr. Grabow over Special and on the right side it is stamped with the shape number 4914 near the shank stem junction. That is followed by Pre-Smoked over Reg. US Pat. Off. The rim top was dirty and had some tar ground into it. The bowl had a light cake in it and there was a small nick on the inner right edge of the bowl. It had a hard rubber vulcanite stem with the white Linkman style propeller inset on the top of the stem. The rubber was quite hard and did not show signs of oxidation. There were tooth marks on the top and underside of the stem at the button. I took some photos of the pipe before I started my cleanup. I took some close up photos of the rim top and bowl to show its condition. The tar spots are on the surface. The nick is visible on the right side of the bowl. I also took photos of the stem to show the bite marks and wear on the stem.I took a photo of the stamping on both sides of the shank to show the condition. Interestingly once I cleaned the shank up and removed the stain the stamping was very readable.I looked up information on the Dr. Grabow Special 4914 pipe on Pipedia to see if I could identify the time period that the pipe came from. I had a hunch that it came out during the war years due to the alternative wood that had been used in its manufacture in place of the normal briar (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Grabow_Models_(Series,Line)_Names_Through_the_Years). Here is what I found out:

SPECIAL (or Special Italian Briar) post-1937, begins with 43, 49, maybe no number at all; DOLLAR DR. GRABOW 1937 or previous, may not be marked as such, begins with 43, 44, 49 Series 43 = Natural Finish (DG), c1937. Series 44 = Dark Finish (DG), c1937. Series 49 = Walnut Finish (DG), c1937.

Thus I knew that the pipe came out post 1937. I still had not confirmed the date of the pipe other than knowing that it was made after 1937. I did some more digging on Pipedia and found the following information that also helped pin down the date (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Grabow).

The production of the pipes started in 1930/31. In 1937 Linkman began calling his pipes “Pre-Smoked”. An ad dating from 1946 celebrates it as “America’s Most Wanted Pipes” and the text announced that each Dr. Grabow was broken in on the Linkman’s Automatic Smoking Machine with fine Edgeworth tobacco, reducing the need for the new owner to spend time breaking in his pipe. In 1949 the official name read Dr. Grabow Pipe Company Inc. with seat at W. Fullerton Avenue 1150, Chicago 14, Illinois. (Thus the Linkman factory.) Series: Special, De Luxe, Supreme, Tru’ Grain, Select Grain.

That helped to pin down when the first Pre-Smoked Pipes came out on the market. I have included a couple of advertisements from the 1940s on the Pre-Smoked pipes. The advertisements were on Pipedia courtesy of Doug Valitchka. I found a similar pipe for sale on eBay (https://picclick.co.uk/Lovely-Vintage-Dr-Grabow-Special-4914-Smokers-Pipe-372388011756.html). It could very well be a twin of the pipe that I am working on. It is also made from an alternative wood, rather than briar.

I started my restoration on the pipe by wiping down the bowl with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the remnants of the oxblood finish. I took photos of the bowl after the cleanup. I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the remaining stain. I sanded the rim top to remove the stain and tars there. I worked over the inner edge of the rim with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the damaged area on the right side. It did not take too much work to remove it. I polished the rim and bowl with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1200-2400 grit pads. The bowl began to have a rich shine.When I sanded the bowl a small red putty fill showed up on the back right side of the bowl. It was slightly pitted. I filled in the pits with clear super glue to remove the damage. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper and then with a 1200 grit micromesh pad.I polished the bowl with red Tripoli on the buffing wheel to smooth out the wood. I heated it and stained it with the “red” tan aniline stain. I flamed it with a lighter and repeated the process until the finish had good coverage. I also gave the bowl a coat of Danish Oil with Cherry stain to highlight the grain. I cleaned out the internals in the stem and the bowl with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. The shank was dirty and the debris and grime that came out made fit of the stem in the shank much tighter.I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I sanded the surface of the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth chatter and the lighter tooth marks. I cleaned it up a soft cotton pad to remove the debris. I filled in the deeper tooth marks with clear super glue to repair them. I set the stem aside to let the repairs cure. I sanded the hardened repairs with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface of the vulcanite.I polished stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each pad. When I had finished polishing with the last pad, I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. This small war era Dr. Grabow Pre-smoked apple is a unique alternative wood pipe. It has interesting swirled grain around the bowl and cross grain across the shank. The grain really is interesting. The rim top looks much better. The vulcanite stem is high quality and shined up well. I buffed the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish to raise the shine on the briar and the vulcanite. I was careful to not buff the stamping and damage it. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The rich oxblood stain allows the grain to really stand out while hiding the fill in the bowl side of this little pipe and it works well with the rich black of the vulcanite stem. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 5 1/4 inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Outside Diameter: 1 inch, Diameter of the chamber: ¾ of an inch. This little Linkman’s Grabow apple fits nicely in the hand and makes a great pocket pipe. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.

Recommissioning a Hefty Ben Wade Bent Billiard Made in London England


Blog by Dal Stanton

I saw this large Ben Wade Bent Billiard on the eBay auction block a few years ago and secured it with the winning bid.  This was the first time I had acquired a Ben Wade, so my initial thought was to add it to my own collection.  I noticed that Ben Wade stamped pipes usually attracted more than usual bidding attention and so I was looking forward to restoring it and learning more about the name.  In the end, I put him in the For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only! section on the Pipe Steward site and this is where Paresh saw it and commissioned it to add to his collection and this benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria.  The Ben Wade, without question, fits the profile of being a ‘hefty’ pipe fitting well in the hand.  Here are some of the pictures that got Paresh’s attention: I take some additional pictures on my work table in Sofia, Bulgaria, looking at the stamping.  On the left shank is ‘Ben Wade’ in cursive script over MADE IN [over] LONDON ENGLAND.  The right shank side has 79 stamped – I’m assuming a shape number. The stem also has a BEN WADE stamp. Pipedia’s article on Ben Wade is interesting and very helpful in explaining the history.  The ‘Family Era” (1860 to 1962) is described as the ‘hay day’ of the British pipe maker:

The company was founded by Benjamin Wade in 1860 in Leeds, Yorkshire, where it was located for over a century. Ben Wade started as a pipe trader, but yet in the 1860’s he established a workshop to produce briar pipes. The pipes were made in very many standard shapes – always extensively classic and “very British”. Many models tended to be of smaller dimensions. Ben Wade offered a very high standard of craftsmanship and quality without any fills. Thus, the pipes were considered to be high grade and a major competitor to other famous English brands.

Along with most pipe manufacturers, the Second World War was a difficult time for Ben Wade.  German air raids destroyed the factory in Leeds, but the Ben Wade Co., quickly rebuilt after the war.  The Pipedia article gives several examples of the Ben Wade based in Leeds nomenclature during the Family Era (courtesy of Doug Valitchka):The ’Family Era’ ended when the business was sold in 1962:

…the owner family decided to leave pipe business and sell off the firm. The family went into negotiations with Herman G. Lane, president of Lane Ltd. in New York at about the same time as the Charatan family. Lane Ltd. bought both firms in 1962. Herman G. Lane had been Charatan’s US sole distributor since 1955 and Charatan always remained his pet child. But Ben Wade was treated in another way by its new owner. The fabrication of pipes was reduced and the factory in Leeds was closed in 1965 finally.  So this was the end of Ben Wade pipes stamped “Made in Leeds, England”.

The ‘Lane Era’ is described as a time when the historic quality of Ben Wade declined to a ‘second’ with reference to the production of standard shapes:

Alas the “new” Ben Wades were quite usual series pipes, copies of well-known standard shapes. The pipes often showed hardly masqued fillings and were processed quite coarsely with hardly polished pre-moulded Ebonite stems. Therewith Ben Wade degenerated definitively to a second brand.

According to the Pipedia article, after the death of Herman G. Lane, the business was sold to Dunhill Pipes Limited in 1978 and the new owner had no need to produce ‘seconds’ coming from the acquisition.  The Ben Wade Bent Billiard on my work table comes from the ‘Lane Era’ produced between 1965 and 1978 matching the nomenclature during this period.  “Made in London England” or just “London” replaced “Leeds” with the characteristic cursive script and ‘Ben Wade’ stem stamp (again courtesy of Doug Valitchka):I had one other question regarding the name ‘Ben Wade’ – the Danish connection? In 1971, the young, Danish pipe maker, Preben Holm, came to Lane with financial difficulties and in need of a new US distributer of his pipes made in Denmark.   The new partnership put the Ben Wade name on the Freehand production coming from the Danish factory into the burgeoning US ‘Freehand’ market with a commitment to quality rather than quantity.  The market grew through the 70s until 1985, when the market for these pipes fell resulting in the downsizing of the factory in 1986 but the production of Danish Ben Wade pipes came to an end in 1989 after the death of Preben Holm.  The Pipedia article concludes by describing the status of the Ben Wade name.  Duncan Briars purchased rights to the Ben Wade name from Dunhill Pipes in 1998 and continues to produce pipes at the same factory where Dunhill pipes are made:

The bowls are carved at the world famous 32 St. Andrews Road, Walthamstowe pipe factory, in London, England. The same factory where Dunhills are made. Every pipe is drilled spot on and exhibits a good blast and all have high quality German Vulcanite mouthpieces. Every pipe is stamped “Ben Wade, Made in London, England”. The craftsmanship and smokability have always been superb.

With a greater appreciation for the Ben Wade name, I take another look at the Ben Wade Bent Billiard on my worktable.  Even though the Pipedia article gave more of a negative view of traditional shapes of Ben Wades produced in the Lane Era, the pipe I’m looking at doesn’t reflect this.  The grain is beautiful, and I see no fills on the surface.  The chamber appears to have been cleaned and the briar surface is clean as well showing normal nicks and scratches.  The stem does have some minor oxidation and tooth dents on the button.  I also detect that there is a gap between the shank and stem – I’ll see if cleaning might correct this.  I take some close ups of these issues. To begin the cleanup of the Ben Wade, I run a pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% through the stem.  Then, along with other pipes in the queue, I put the stem in a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer to remove the oxidation.  After a few hours, I remove the stem and wipe off the raised oxidation using cotton pads and light paraffin oil – mineral oil.  I also run another pipe cleaner through the airway to remove Deoxidizer. Turning to the stummel, I remove the very light cake in the chamber. With the chamber so large, I jump to the largest blade head from the Pipnet Reaming kit.  I follow this by using the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool and scraping the chamber walls further.  I finish by sanding the chamber wall using 240 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  To remove the carbon dust residue, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  The pictures show the progress. One of the purposes of removing the old cake to bring the chamber down to the briar, is not only for a fresh start.  When the carbon is removed the chamber can be inspected for problems usually pertaining to heat fissures and potential burn throughs.  Inspecting the Ben Wade, I detect on the forward part of the chamber a sloping indentation that is a little to pronounced to ignore.  Using the Savinelli Fitsall Tool again, I scrape carbon out of the indentation to make sure I’m getting down to the briar.  This reveals the full extent of the abnormal burning.  I take pictures to show what I see, but the picture doesn’t do too well.  Changing the aperture, the picture is lightened, and I outline the perimeter of the indentation in the final picture below.  I need to address this budding burn through later after cleaning the stummel.  Next, I clean the external stummel surface using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad.  The stummel cleans up well but reveals a tired, lackluster, thin finish. I then clean the internals of the stummel using cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95%.  The grunge is thick, so I also employ a dental spatula to scrape the mortise walls as well as a drill bit to hand turn down the airway to excavate the old tars and oils.  To save on pipe cleaners I also utilize a long shank brush to scrub the airway.  Eventually, the tide begins to turn, and the buds and pipe cleaners are emerging less soiled.   I take a picture of the tools I use.To continue cleaning the internals, I use a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I like to do this additional step in cleaning to further clean the tars and oils out of the internal briar and to freshen the pipe.  I use kosher salt because it doesn’t leave an aftertaste.  I stretch and twist a cotton ball to form a wick that I then insert down the mortise and airway pushing it with a straight, stiff wire.  I then fill the bowl with kosher salt and place the stummel in an egg crate to keep it stable.  With a large eyedropper, I fill the bowl with isopropyl 95% until it surfaces over the salt.  I put the stummel aside to soak for several hours.Again, I look closely at the stem that had already soaked in the Before & After Deoxidizer and I see that there remains deeper oxidation.  Instead of going directly to sanding out the oxidation, I decide to put the stem in the OxiClean bath to let it soak overnight – to see if more oxidation would be raised.  I put a small bit of petroleum jelly over the Ben Wade stem stamping and I put the stem in the OxiClean and turned out the lights.  Another day is finished.The next morning the soak had done the job. After tossing the expended salt in the waste, I wipe the chamber with paper towel and blow through the mortise to clear any residual salt crystals. I also use a long shank brush down the mortise.  To make sure the internals are clean, I finish by using a cotton bud and pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% down the mortise and airway.  They come out clean.Next, I fish the stem out of the OxiClean where it has been soaking through the night.  More oxidation has surfaced.  I begin sanding the entire stem using 240 grit paper careful to protect the Ben Wade stamping and shouldering the stem.  I focus on the bit area removing the minor tooth chatter.  Using a flat needle file, I freshen the button edges.  I follow by wet sanding with 600 grit paper and then 0000 steel wool.  The oxidation appears to be removed for the larger part except for some around the Ben Wade stamping which I won’t sand for the sake of preserving the stamp. Taking it one step further, using Before & After Fine and Extra Fine Polish, I rub each into the vulcanite in succession.  Putting some on my finger, I work the polishes into the vulcanite and let the stem sit for a time to absorb the polish.  The polishes are advertised not only to revitalize vulcanite but also to continue to remove the oxidation.  After each polish is absorbed, I then wipe the stem down with a cotton pad.  The pictures show the progress.Putting the stem aside for now, I work on the budding burn through in the chamber.  Previously, I dug out any remaining charring in the indentation.  To make sure the area is fully clear, I sand the area again and wiped the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95% to clean the chamber.  As far as chamber burn throughs go, this one is minimal.  It has not progressed far and the size and the thickness of the bowl means that there was never any imminent danger.  Yet, for the long-term view and use of this beautiful Ben Wade Bent Billiard, I repair the problem where it is before it grows and becomes a worse problem.  I mix a small batch of J-B Kwik Weld on an index card.  After combining the two components, ‘Steel’ and ‘Hardener’, I have about 4 minutes to apply the mixture before it starts setting. I use a flat dental spatula as a trowel and apply the J-B Weld to the indentation in the chamber.  I put the stummel aside to allow the J-B Weld to thoroughly cure. After it cures, I use a sanding drum mounted on the Dremel to sand the excess.  I follow this using the Sharpie Pen wrapped with 240 grit paper to leave the chamber smooth and shaped. I’m pleased with the results and glad I went the extra mile to arrest the potential burn through.  Later, I’ll apply a coat of activated charcoal and sour cream mixture to the chamber wall to improve the aesthetics and to aid formation of a new protective cake. Before continuing, I reunite the stem and stummel to examine the shank junction.  Earlier I saw a gap between the shank and the stem.  Often, after cleaning these problems are resolved.  I find that this indeed was the case as the stem is now seated as it should be.  Pictures are before and after.With the stem now properly seating, I turn again to the stem and using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stem.  Following this, I dry sand using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Following each set of three pads, I apply a coat of Obsidian Oil to revitalize the stem.  I love the glassy pop of a micromeshed stem! Turning now to the external surface of the stummel, I take a closer look at the condition of the briar.  I identify some very small fills which are solid except for one, which is pitted.  Along with normal dents and scratches from wear, there is a small skin mark on the forward outer lip of the rim.  For the pitted fill, I dig out more of the old fill with a sharp dental probe.  Since I will put clear CA glue on the pitted fill, I color the fill with a walnut dye stick to aid in blending.  I then spot drop CA glue on the area and set the stummel aside allowing the glue to cure. After a full work day, the CA glue patch I applied this morning is fully cured.  I remove the CA glue mound starting with a flat needle file.  The key is to stay on the mound and gradually bring it down close to the briar surface.  I don’t want to impact any surrounding briar.  I follow the filing by using a tightly rolled piece of 240 grit paper to bring the glue down until it’s flush with the briar surface.  My rule of thumb is to sand until I can feel no roughness.  The patch looks good – blending well with the briar.To address the rim nicks, I decide to give the rim a very light topping.  Using a chopping board as my topping board, I place a sheet of 240 grade paper on the board.  Inverting the stummel, I rotate the stummel a few times on the board to freshen the rim lines and remove the nicks.  I follow with a few rotations on 600 grade paper.  The pictures show the progress. Next, to address the briar surface, I use in succession rough, medium and light grade sanding sponges to work out the cuts and nicks in preparation for the micromesh pads.  I find that using sanding sponges on smooth briars helps clean the surface of the old, tired finish without being greatly invasive.  The sponges also smooth and soften the rim lines after the topping.  I enjoy watching the grain begin to take center stage through the process.Next, using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand the stummel.  I follow by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I forgot to take a picture of the first set of 3 pads.  The grain is coming through nicely. Rejoining stem and stummel, I mount a 1-inch cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel set at about 40% full power and apply Blue Diamond compound to the entire pipe.Before applying carnauba wax to the stem and stummel, I need to touch up the Ben Wade stem stamping with the hope there’s enough tread left in the ‘Wade’ portion of the stamp to hold the paint.  Using white acrylic paint, I apply paint over the stamping and sponge off the excess while still wet and allow the paint to dry. After dry, I gently scrape the excess with the flat edge of a toothpick.  I’m less than satisfied.  I try reapplying more paint and wiping while still wet.  After working with it for some time, I’ve come to the best I can do.  The ‘Wade’ part of the stamping simply does not have enough depth left to fully hold paint.  The picture shows my less than hoped for results. One more project to finish before the final waxing.  After completing the chamber repair using J-B Weld and sanding, to aid the aesthetics and to provide a starter layer for developing a protective cake, I mix together sour cream or natural yogurt with activated charcoal to form an application to cover the walls of the chamber.  When I first heard about this mixture from Steve on rebornpipes, I was a bit doubtful then, but no longer.  I have used this application many times and after applying and drying, the result is a very sturdy layer.  After the pipe goes into service, the only caution is when cleaning out the bowl after use do not scrape the chamber with a pipe tool.  I simply use a folded bristled pipe cleaner to scrape the wall after dumping the ash.  This has worked well for me.  I place a pipe cleaner in the draft hole to keep the airway open.  Here in Bulgaria, yogurt is very plentiful, so I scoop some natural yogurt in a small bowl and add some activated charcoal powder and mix it.  After it mixes and thickens enough so it won’t be runny, I trowel the mixture into the chamber with a pipe nail tool and spread it evenly.  After it’s distributed well, I set the stummel aside for a time to allow the charcoal/yogurt mixture to cure. After the Charcoal/Yogurt coating sets, I reunite stem and stummel.  Using the Dremel, I mount another cotton cloth wheel, leaving the speed at about 40% and apply carnauba wax.  After a few coats of wax, I give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.

This hefty Ben Wade Made in London England Bent Billiard turned out very well.  The horizontal grain on the huge stummel flows in a striking picture and is joined by large bird’s eye pools. The bowl rests very nicely in the palm and will provide its new steward with much enjoyment. Paresh commissioned this Ben Wade and will have the first opportunity to acquire it from The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!