Tag Archives: topping a bowl

Restoring & Repairing a Chipped Stem on a BBB Own Make 607 Liverpool


Blog by Steve Laug

Those who have been following the blog know that I really like old BBB pipes and have a pretty nice collection of different shapes. I love working on them as the briar is very good and the vulcanite is quite nice as well. You also know that I am not currently adding any work to the queue that is not local so that I can catch up on the large estate from Bob Kerr that I have been working on. But sometimes it is hard to say no. When the brand I like and a pipe I like come along together it is a hard one to decline. So long story short, not too long ago I received the following email with photos of the damaged stem attached:

Dear Steve,

Greetings from Wisconsin! Thank you for the good work you do, and for bringing new life to so many fallen pipes.

I bought a BBB Own Make Liverpool (shape # 607) despite its severely damaged stem. I love the shape and weight of it, and if its stem were restored this would probably be my favorite pipe.

The damage to the stem (please see attached photographs) is bad enough that the pipe is unsmokable: a piece of the vulcanite about one-fifth the size of a dime is missing altogether. In addition, the stem has been very roughly sanded, which left it marked with a kind of rude crosshatching.

I’m writing to ask whether you yourself would be open to doing a repair job, or could recommend someone who could.

Many thanks and congratulations again on the good work you do.

Stephen Looking at the photos he sent I had to take his word for it that it was a Liverpool shaped pipe. The round shank and the short tapered stem pointed to that. The metal BBB logo on the stem top, the fact that it was a BBB Own Make and the challenge of restoring a BBB all made it impossible for me to decline! After I said yes and the deal was struck for the repair and restoration I thought I should have had him send it to Paresh who loves working on this kind of stem rebuild. But I just shook my head and waited for it to arrive.

When it arrived I took time to assess the damage. The stem was just as Stephen described it so I quote his description here: The damage to the stem (please see attached photographs) is bad enough that the pipe is unsmokable: a piece of the vulcanite about one-fifth the size of a dime is missing altogether. In addition, the stem has been very roughly sanded, which left it marked with a kind of rude crosshatching. On top of that it was dirty and smelled bad. The bowl was another story. There were some dark stains on the heel of the bowl and on the right side of the shank that at first glance looked like burn marks but on examination seemed to be a dark, sticky substance on the surface of the briar. The rim top was darkened and there was some lava overflow on the top. There was a burn mark on the front of the bowl on the bevel but it did not appear too deep. There was also a burn mark on the out edge of the rim at the front. The bowl had a thin cake in it and the pipe smelled old and musty. My first thoughts on the band were that it was a repair band, but when I removed the stem there were no cracks in the shank. I examined the band with a lens and bright light and on the underside it bears the BBB Diamond and the stamping “Sterling Silver”. It is original! The pipe was a mess but it showed some promise and bespoke of a lot of work! I took photos of the pipe when I received it. I took a close up photo of the rim top and the stem to give a better picture of the issues that I needed to deal with in the restoration. You can see the damage on the front beveled edge and top of the rim as well as the darkening and nicks in the surface toward the back of the bowl. There was definitely damage that would need to be addressed (possibly a light topping). What was interesting to me is that the cake did not go all the way to the bottom of the bowl. The bowl bottom was still raw unsmoked briar… that too was promising. The stem was another story. The topside had a lot of sanding scratches and hash marks all around the brass BBB Diamond. The button was very thin on the top side both in terms of width and height. The chip out of the underside of the button went quite a ways into the stem material so that the rebuilt button would need to be a little thicker than the original but it was fixable in my estimation.  I took photos of the stamping on the shank. I took a photo of the left side and you can see the BBB Diamond with Own Make flanking it on each side. I cleaned off the black grime on the right side before I took the photo of the stamping there. It read Made In London over England followed by the shape number – 607. You can see the nice birdseye grain on the shank sides. It is going to be a beautiful pipe once it is cleaned and restored.I took the stem off the pipe and was a bit surprised by the aluminum inner tube in the tenon. It extended the length of the shank and the pointed end extended into the bottom of the bowl. I just could not see it due to the cake and grime in the pipe.I decided to start my clean up on the bowl to see if I could remove the black marks on the heel and the shank side. I scrubbed the bowl down with Mark Hoover’s Before & After Briar Cleaner. I rubbed it into the surface of the briar, and as Mark wrote me it lifted the grime and dirt out of the briar. It removed the majority of the dark spots on the shank and heel. I would need to do a little more work on those areas but it looked very good. I rinsed the cleaner off the bowl with warm running water and dried it with a soft cloth. The photos below show the cleaned briar…. Look at the grain on that pipe! With the externals clean it was time to clean the internals. I cleaned out the thin cake in the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and promptly forgot to take the photos. I cleaned out the mortise and the airway in the shank and stem with alcohol, pipe cleaners, and cotton swabs. For the way the pipe smelled the shank was amazingly clean. I am not used to that when an inner tube is used as usually the tars build up around the outside… This time the tube actually worked very well.While the rim top definitely looked better there was still some burn damage to the outer edge of the front rim and nicks in the back edge. I lightly topped the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper on a topping board. I was able to remove the damage for the most part without removing too much of the rim top.I did the initial polishing of the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads. I wiped the briar down after each pad with a damp cloth. I worked on the dark spots that had been on the heel and on the right side of the shank while being careful to not damage the stamping that was underneath the marks. I also polished the rim top and the inner bevel in preparation for staining. I smoothed out the bevel on the inner edge of the rim and was happy with the look. I used an Oak stain pen to stain the rim to match the rest of the pipe. The match is very good and it did a great job of blending in the damage to the bevel. Once I had finished the stain I continued to polish the bowl and rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. I continue to use Mark Hoover’s Balm on every pipe I have been working on. The grain on the Own Make is quite stunning and it just pops now with the cleanup! It is a beauty. I polished the Sterling Silver Band with Hagerty’s Silver Polish to remove the tarnish and bring the shine back. It is a beautiful band. The BBB Diamond logo and Sterling Silver is on the underside of the shank.With the cleaning and restoration of the bowl finished for now I set it aside and turned my attention to the stem. The stem was the real challenge on this old timer. I was hoping to be able to rebuild the button and stem on the underside and widen the button on the topside to help protect the repair. I mixed up a batch of black super glue and activated charcoal powder to make putty. I inserted a folded card covered with packing tape to keep the glue from filling in the airway in the slot. I used a dental spatula to fill in the chipped area. I also filled in the area on the topside to build up the button. This kind of repair is really ugly at this point in the process. There is nothing pretty or redeeming about the way it looks.I let the stem repair cure overnight and in the morning used a needle file and a rasp to smooth out the repair and shape the edge of the button on both sides of the stem. The first photo shows the repaired and rebuilt button on the underside. The second one is the widened and beefed up topside of the button. Lots of work to go still but it is starting to show some promise. I sanded the repairs and the reshaped button with 220 grit sand paper and 400 grit wet dry sand paper to smooth out the ridges and high spots and give definition to the shape. I have one more tin of Denicare Mouthpiece Polish left from a few that I have picked up over the years. It is a coarse red pasted that serves to help remove oxidation. I polished the stem with that to further smooth out the surface of the vulcanite (and to be honest – to use it up).   I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it final coat of oil and set it aside to dry.    When this pipe arrived I truly dreaded rebuilding the stem. I know how to do the process. That is never the problem but it is very labour intensive and time consuming. However, yesterday afternoon I felt like doing something a bit different in the restoration process. I pulled this pipe out of the box and finished the repair yesterday. Today I shaped and polished it. With every pipe I work on, I look forward to when it all comes back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax 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 sandblast finish looked really good with the polished black vulcanite. This BBB Own Make 607 Liverpool was another fun pipe to work on. It really has a look that I have come to expect from BBB pipes. It is really eye catching. The combination of various brown stains really makes the pipe look attractive. It is another comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ¾ inches, Height: 1 7/8 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¼ inches, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. I look forward to mailing it back to Stephen and seeing what he thinks of the finished pipe. I have sent him progress reports but that is not the same as holding it in your hand. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.

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Refreshing a Savinelli Dry System 362


Blog by Dal Stanton

I acquired a pair of Savinelli Dry System pipes on the eBay auction block from a seller in Poughkeepsie, New York.  I initially was attracted by the ‘Peterson-like’ description of the pair – ‘Dry System’.  I also liked the tight bend and the ‘Dublin-esque’ bowls.  Both are ¾ bent with a conical bowl – a tight configuration that I liked immediately.  They almost seemed identical, but one had the shape number 362, the one on my worktable now, and the other had 3621.  When I unpacked them here in Bulgaria and took a closer look, I could see the differences.  Both have identical shapes but the 362 is a lighter rusticated finish with a smooth rim.  The 3621 is a darker blasted finish with a blasted rim.  These pictures show the differences.A friend of mine here in Bulgaria, Teo, saw the Savinelli pair on my website in the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” Only!’ collection and inquired about them.  I was very happy that he commissioned the 362 to add to his collection which will benefit our work here in Bulgaria with the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. Pipe smoking is very rare here in my adopted country of Bulgaria.  In the 13 years we have lived and worked in Bulgaria, I can count on one hand how many times I have seen a Bulgarian smoking a pipe!  After restoring the pipe, and if Teo decides to adopt it (it’s not obligatory for those who commission – they have the first opportunity to acquire it), I’ll look forward to sharing a bowl with him!  Here are more pictures of the Savinelli Dry System 362 on my worktable. The smooth underside panel holds the nomenclature.  To the left is stamped ‘DRY SYSTEM’ then the Savinelli ‘S’ logo.  To the right of the logo is 362 [over] ITALY.  The nickel shank cap is stamped on the left side with ‘SAVINELLI’ along with ‘S’ on the topside of the military stem. I found nothing about the Dry System on Pipedia but Pipephil.eu came through with some very helpful information – especially about the shape number differences.  Looking at the Savinelli shapes chart on Pipedia’s Savinelli article, shapes 362 or 3621 were not among those listed.  Pipephil provided this on the Savinelli Dry System with the information that the Dry System could be stamped with either 3 or 4 digits for the shape number:The panel above also references a link comparing Savinelli’s Dry System P-Lip stem with the Peterson standard. I found the most information about the Savinelli Dry System on another site as I broadened my online search.  A South African based tobacconist, Wesley’s  (See LINK), provided a gold mine of information about the Savinelli Dry System:

Launched in 1981, it had taken several years of research into the negative points of existing system pipes, in order to improve on them. Perseverance paid off – by combining trap and filter, and enlarging the smoke hole, Savinelli achieved the “Dry System”, which in our opinion is the best answer to “Wet Smoking” so far developed.

Especially for new pipe smokers, the Savinelli Dry System pipe incorporates everything needed to provide a cool, dry smoke.

The name “Dry” comes from the introduction of the Balsa “filter” into the traditional system pipe – the “System” being the presence of the built-in moisture trap in the shank, linked with the “smokehole on the top” mouthpiece. The balsa mops up the moisture in the smoke hence the term “Dry” system, and if the pipe is smoked without the balsa all that will happen is that this moisture will condense and collect in the trap. It can then either be mopped up with a folded pipe cleaner or flicked out. Just be careful where you flick it!

Put this all together and you can see why we say these are technically our best designed pipes. But the technical qualities are not all these pipes have to offer. Extra bonuses are the feel, the finishes and the balance.

This information marks the genesis of the Savinelli Dry System line in 1981. Added to this information, Wesley’s included the following benefits of the Savinelli system with a helpful cut-away showing the internals:The description of the ‘smokehole’ of the mouthpiece, is interesting in the way it disperses the smoke so that it avoids tongue burn as well as keeping moisture entering the stem from the mouth. The trademark filtering system is also optional – use of the balsa insert which I use with great satisfaction with some of my own Savinellis.  Yet, even if you do not utilize the absorbing qualities of the balsa insert, the built-in moisture trap will hold the moisture for clean-up after smoking.  Sounds good!

Wesley’s Tobacconist also included this helpful Shapes Chart for the Savinelli Dry System pipes. The description for the 3621 suggests:

Regular shapes 3613 & 3621 are ideal for the new pipe smoker or for a short smoke for anybody.

As I look at the Savinelli Dry System 362 now on my worktable, I’m wondering if it too is actually a 3621 and the craftsman applying the rustication was a bit overzealous.  I take a close-up to show that the latter half of ‘ITALY’ also succumbed to the rustication!Notwithstanding, this 362* is a sharp looking pipe in relatively good condition.  The chamber shows moderate cake build-up and the smooth, internally beveled rim is darkened with some lava buildup.  The rustication process is very tight and attractive and only needs some cleaning of the normal grime buildup.  The nickel shank cap will shine up nicely.  The Savinelli P-Lip stem has a good bit of oxidation and the P-Lip button shows almost no biting damage.  Overall, I’m hopeful of a smooth cleanup!  I begin the restoration by cleaning the airway of the stem with a pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% and then I place the stem in a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other pipes in the queue.   My wife captured this Pipe Steward cameo appearance at the worktable! After several hours in the soak, I fish out the Savinelli stem and wipe it down with cotton pads wetted with alcohol to remove the raised oxidation.  I also run pipe cleaners through the airway to clear the excess Deoxidizer.  I can attest to the fact that this P-Lip stem is easier to clean than the Peterson version!To begin rejuvenating the vulcanite, a coat of paraffin oil on the stem does the job and I put the Savinelli P-Lip aside to absorb the oil.The chamber has a moderate cake build up and removing it to give the briar a fresh start and to inspect the chamber walls is the next step.Using only the smallest blade head of the Pipnet Reaming Kit, it becomes clear very soon how quickly the canonical chamber narrows toward the floor.  I do not force the blade downward with much pressure to avoid digging into the lower chamber wall to form a reaming ledge. This has been evident on several pipes where I’ve seen the results of overzealous reaming.  Utilizing the Savinelli Fitsall tool next, the blade is better suited to the contours of the chamber wall.  To remove the final carbon residue from the chamber wall, sanding the walls with a Sharpie Pen wrapped with 240 grade paper does the job well.  Finally, the chamber is cleaned of carbon dust with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%. Inspection of the chamber walls reveals a very healthy block of briar.Moving now to cleaning the external briar surface, undiluted Murphy’s Oil soap is applied to a cotton pad to scrub the rim and rusticated surface.  A bristled toothbrush also works well on the rough surface freeing it of dirt and grime.  Utilizing both a brass bristled brush and the sharp edge of the Winchester pocketknife, the darkened areas on the rim give way.  With a very gentle touch with the blade, the excess carbon gives way on the rim and the sharp internal bevel.  Taking the stummel to the sink and using warm water the cleaning continues with anti-oil dish soap and shank brushes to clean the internals.  After thoroughly rinsing, the internal cleaning continues at the worktable with pipe cleaners and cotton buds wetted with isopropyl 95%. As cotton buds are dipped in and out of the mortise, the schematic of the internals included above comes to mind.  Without doubt, the trap system works!  What a muck of gunk is excavated from the trap as dental spatula and spoon are utilized to scrape the mortise walls and trap.  Finally, cotton buds and pipe cleaners start emerging lighter and I move on with clean internals left behind.Before moving on to the stem, I decide to apply the coup de grâce to the internal cleaning process first.  While working on the stem, a kosher salt and alcohol soak will continue the cleaning passively and freshen the bowl for the new steward.  I form a mortise ‘wick’ first by pulling and stretching a cotton ball.  I guide the end of the wick into the airway cut-away with the help of a stiff wire.  Following this, more of the cotton wick is stuffed down into the trap.  With the wick in place, after kosher salt is added almost filling the chamber, the stummel is placed in an egg crate providing stability to the operation.  Using a large eye dropper, isopropyl 95% is then added to the bowl until it surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes the alcohol is absorbed, the bowl is topped off with alcohol once again and the bowl is set aside to allow the soak to do its thing. Moving now to the stem, closeups of the upper- and lower-bit area show little tooth compression damage but the condition of the vulcanite is very rough.This is addressed by sanding the entire stem with 240 and 470 grade papers followed by wet sanding with 600 grade paper and finishing by applying 000 steel wool – throughout, care is given to sand around the Savinelli ‘S’ stamping on the upper side. Straight away, using the full regimen of micromesh pads, with pads 1500 to 2400 I wet sand, followed by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of 3 pads an application of Obsidian Oil further rejuvenates the vulcanite.  The stem looks great and I put it aside and turn to the bowl. The stummel has benefited from a kosher salt and alcohol soak through the night.  The soiled salt and wick reveal the extricating process of drawing the tars and oils out of the internal briar.  After clearing the used salt to the waste and blowing through the bowl and wiping it out with paper towel, to make sure all is cleaned and refreshed, another pipe cleaner and cotton bud are wetted with isopropyl 95% and inserted.  They reveal almost no soiling.  All is clean and I move on.Looking at the smooth rim, it is attractive and shows very nice potential of contrasting rough briar and smooth briar grain.  I appreciate contrasting briar textures in a pipe’s presentation.The rim has scratches and residual discoloration. To address this, both 240 and 600 grade papers are utilized to sand the rim and freshen the distinctive internal bevel.  Sanding very lightly, the patina is preserved while still cleaning the top surface.To now fully bring out the grain, I sand the rim with the full battery of micromesh pads – wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400 and from 3200 to 12000 dry sanding does the job.  I’m really liking how this Savinelli Dry System is shaping up!I take another close look at the Savinelli rusticated surface. I’m attracted to the tight, distinct pattern of the rustication.  The reddish hue stands out nicely. I always look forward to the application of Before & After Restoration Balm to briar surfaces – both smooth and rough.  The effect of deepening of the hues subtly is why I like this product.  I apply some of the Balm to my fingers and rub it in very thoroughly over the rustication and rim.  As I’ve described before, the Balm starts with a cream-like viscosity and gradually thickens into a wax-like consistency as it is worked into the briar surface.  After the application of Balm is completed, it stands for about 20 minutes ( the next two pictures below) and then using a cloth I wipe off the excess and buff up the surface with a microfiber cloth.  I love the results! Before moving on with the next stage, the nickel shank cap needs addressing.  It is somewhat colored and dirty with fine scratches.  It will shine up nicely.To do the initial cleaning, Tarn-X is a product I acquired in the US and it works well.  After applying some of the solution with a cotton pad and scrubbing the nickel, I rinse it with tap water and dry. I’m careful to keep the solution off the briar.  It does a great job.After the cleaning with Tarn-X is complete, there remains the roughness of wear and tear shown in the picture below.To address this, a dedicated cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted onto the Dremel with a speed set at about 40% full power and I apply Blue Diamond compound to address the scratches and fine lines in the nickel.  I’m careful to keep the wheel over the nickel and not overrun on the briar.  This process can stain the briar very easily with a blackish hue.  Not good.The results are great providing Savinelli shank cap bling!Moving on with Blue Diamond compound, I mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel to the Dremel, maintain the same speed and apply the compound to the smooth briar rim and stem.  I do not apply the compound to the rusticated briar surface.  I’m afraid it will gum-up the surface and be a bear to clean.Looking more closely at the stem…, well, my OCD pipe restoration tendencies would not allow me to ignore some residual oxidation making an appearance as I fine tune the buffing with the compound.  The next picture, lightened to show what I’m seeing, reveals the oxidation around the ‘S’ stamping as well on the edges of the hump of the stem rise.   The stamping was intentionally protected from sanding to preserve the Savinelli ‘S’.  Yet, I’m not satisfied with the wide birth of oxidation that I’ve left!  And the residue on the sides – just will not do.I begin a more conservative approach to remove these vestiges of oxidation.  I start with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser with little success.Then I use Before & After Fine and Extra fine polishes which are supposed to continue the oxidation removal process.  I apply the polishes successively, rubbing in then wiping off.  The polishes may have helped marginally. Not satisfied, sanding with 470, then 600 following again by applying 000 steel addresses the oxidation.As before, the full regimen of micromesh pads from 1500 to 12000 precedes applying Blue Diamond compound with the Dremel.  I’m satisfied with the results this time around! The oxidation encompassing the ‘S’ stamping is much tighter now and the oxidation spots that were on both sides of the hump have been eradicated. I move on.Before applying the final touch of polishing with carnauba wax, I freshen the Savinelli ‘S’ stem stamping using white acrylic paint. I spread some paint over the stamping and daub it with a cotton pad to remove the excess.  Using a toothpick, I very lightly scrape the paint removing the excess leaving the ‘S’ somewhat filled.  I repeated this process a few times to get it as right as possible.  The paint grips but not perfectly and the final ‘S’ isn’t as solid as I like, but it’s better than it was! To complete the restoration of this nice looking Savinelli Dry Air System 362, after a cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted onto the Dremel and speed set and 40 percent full power, I apply carnauba wax to the stem and rim.  In applying carnauba to the rusticated surface, I increase the speed to about 60% full power.  This aids the heating and assimilation of the wax into the rougher surface.  After applying a few coats, I give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.

This Savinelli Dry System came out well.  The rustication is striking, and the deep reddish hues of the finish are a very nice contrast to the smooth briar rim.  The tight bent Dublin-esque fits well in the hand.  I appreciated learning more about the enhancements that Savinelli made to its Dry System and I look forward to hearing whether it truly does provide a step toward the pipe smokers holy grail – a dryer and cooler smoke! Teo commissioned this pipe which benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited, and he will have the first opportunity to acquire it in The Pipe Steward Store.  Thanks for joining me!

Another Calich on the Worktable – a Grade 11, 1988 Oval Shank Dublin


Blog by Steve Laug

After I had finished the last of Ken Bennett’s estate Calich pipes my friend Alex sent me an email about a Calich oval shank canted Dublin that he thought would be a good match to the Calich pipes from Ken’s estate. Last week we got together for a visit and so that he could drop off some pipes for me to work on and some pipes that he wanted to trade. The Calich was one of them. This pipe had a classic Calich look to it. There was a grooved channel on the front and on the right side of the bowl – kind of a fluted look. The finish was dull and would need to be buffed to polish it. The shape of the bowl followed the beautiful grain of the briar – flame and straight grain around the bowl and some swirls and birdseye as well. The rim top was plateau and canted toward the front. The smooth bowl seemed to have medium brown stain that made the grain pop. Over time John’s pipes take on a rich patina. The bowl had a light cake in it and there was some darkening on front and back side of the plateau rim top. Otherwise the rim top and edges of the bowl looked to be in excellent condition. The stamping on the underside of the shank read G followed by CALICH over Hand Made. After that stamping there was a superscript 88 stamped (year it was carved) with a subscript 11 which was the grade number. The stem has a single metal dot in the top of the saddle. There were some light tooth marks on both sides of the stem on both sides near the button. The shank and stem were dirty inside. I took a photo of the bowl and rim top to show the cake in the bowl and the darkening and light lava on the inner edge of the rim top. The cake was thin along the edges of the bowl but hopefully it had protected the rim and edges from damage. Otherwise it looks pretty good. I also took photos of the stem to show the oxidation on both sides and the light tooth chatter on both sides near the button.  I took a photo of the underside of the shank to show the condition of the stamping. You can see that just ahead of the Calich stamp over Hand Made is the letter G. After the “H” in Calich is a superscript 88 and a subscript 11.Once again I am including some information about John Calich the pipemaker as I have loved John Calich’s pipes for over 25 years now and have collected a few of them. I have restored quite a few of them and written blogs about them that can be read if you are interested in seeing the kind of pipes that John made. They are unique and beautiful. Each one of them is a work of art to me. I have written blogs on all of Ken Bennett’s Calich pipes and several others that I have in my own collection. Do a quick search on the blog if you are interested in reading about them.

John Calich, courtesy Doug Valitchka

When John was living I spoke with him several times via phone and had him make some new stems for some of his pipes that I picked up off eBay. He was a very kind gentleman and was always helpful when I spoke with him. He was always ready with encouragement and when I needed to know how to do something when I was first learning to repair pipes he was willing to help. He was one of the old guard of Canadian Pipe makers. I miss him. I am including a short piece from Pipedia on John to give details on his work and the grading of his pipes. The second paragraph below is highlighted in blue as it gives some information on the Grade 12 Apple that I am working on with the single silver dot now.

John Calich was one of Canada’s finest carvers. He died in July 2008. John was a full time pipe maker for the last 40 years. Calich pipes were mostly traditional shapes. His signature style is rustication and smooth on the same pipe along with his unique skill to stain a pipe in contrasting colors. He used only top quality Grecian and Calabrian briar. The mouthpieces are hand finished Vulcanite “A”. Each pipe was entirely made by hand. John Calich was featured in the summer 2005 issue of Pipes & Tobacco.

His pipes are graded 3E – 7E. Retail prices range from$ 145.00 to $ 500.00 Each pipe is stamped “CALICH” 3-8E, his earlier pipes were graded from 3-14, and a single, tiny silver dot is applied to the top of the stem (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Calich).

From my other blogs I was able to garner quite a bit of information on John’s grading system. As noted above the newer ones carried a 3E-7E stamp but the earlier ones were graded 3-14. The retail prices for them ranged from $145.00 to $500.00. Each of the earlier pipes was stamped “CALICH” and pipes were graded from 3-14 and had a single, tiny silver dot applied to the top of the stem. More information can be found at the Pipedia article above. All of this information told me as expected that the pipe I had was an earlier one.

Armed with the facts that I am dealing with a 1988 pipe made by one of my favourite Canadian pipe makers it was time to get back to work on the pipe. I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to scrape back the cake to briar. I finished my cleanup of the walls by sanding it with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel.   I scrubbed the briar with Before & After Briar Cleaner and rinsed it off with warm running water. I scrubbed the rim top with a tooth brush and warm running water at the same time. I dried the bowl off with a soft microfiber cloth and gave it a light buffing. The photos show the cleaned briar and the grain is really beginning to pop. John once again really followed the grain on the shaping of this pipe.  I worked on the internals. I scraped the inside of the mortise with a dental spatula to remove the hardened tars and oils that lined the walls of the shank. Once I had that done I cleaned out the airway to the bowl, the mortise and the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. When I finished the pipe smelled very clean. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. Mark Hoover’s Balm is a product that I have come to appreciate and one I use on every pipe I have been working on.   I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the tooth chatter and marks on both sides at the button. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratching. It is starting to look good.  I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it final coat of oil and set it aside to dry.     Alex’s Calich is a similar style to the pipes from Ken’s Estate that I worked on. It is a beautifully grained Canted Dublin Hand Made with an oval shank and saddle stem. It has the kind of beauty I have come to expect from John’s pipes with plateau on the rim top and the fluted front and right side of the bowl. I am excited to be on the homestretch with this. This is the part I look forward to when each pipe comes back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. 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 straight and flame grain on the sides of the bowl and birdseye and swirled grain on the front and back side of the bowl is quite stunning. The plateau on the rim top was originally natural though had been darkened over time. The polished smooth finish look really good with the black vulcanite. This Calich Hand Made was another fun pipe to bring back to life. The medium brown finish and the plateau rim top makes this Canted Dublin pipe look attractive. It is another comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inch, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is entire estate was interesting to bring back to life.

Restoring a Patent Era Brigham 1 Dot Dublin Ken Bennett’s Estate


Blog by Steve Laug

Early in August I received an email from an interesting woman on Vancouver Island regarding some pipes that she had for sale. She was looking to sell the pipes from her late husband Ken and one from her Great Grandfather. Here is her email:

I have 5 John Calich pipes that date from 1979 to 1981. One is graded 11 and the other four are graded 12. I had bought them as Christmas and birthday gifts for my late husband. He was a very light smoker for a 3 year period.

I am a wood sculptor and always admired the grain and shapes of John’s best pipes. John was a friend as well. We exhibited at many exhibitions together for over 25 years.

I am wondering if you can provide any information on how I might be able to sell them.

Thanks you for any help you might be able to provide

I wrote her back and told I was very interested in the pipes that she had for sale and asked her to send me some photos of the lot. She quickly did just that and we struck a deal. I paid her through an e-transfer and the pipes were on their way to me. They arrived quite quickly and when they did I opened the box and found she had added three more pipes – a Brigham, a Dr. Plumb and a WDC Milano.

I finished the restoration of all the pipes in the box of Calich pipes and the BBB Calabash that Pat had sent. She had included a Brigham as noted above. This Brigham Dublin one dot pipe was a classic Brigham shape and rusticated finish. The rim top was dirty and pretty beat up. There were nicks out of the outer edge of the rim around the bowl. The front outer edge was rough from knocking the pipe out again hard surfaces. The rusticated finish was in decent condition. The bowl had a cake in it and there was a lava overflow onto the rim top and darkening the finish. The inner edge of the bowl looked to be in excellent condition under the lava. The stamping on the underside of the shank was very clear and read Shape 107 on the heel of the bowl followed by Can. Pat. 372982 on the smooth panel on the shank. That was followed by Brigham. There is a long tail coming from the “m” curving under the Brigham stamp. The stem was lightly oxidized as was the single metal dot on the side of the taper. There was oxidation and light tooth chatter on both sides of the stem on both sides near the button. The shank and stem were dirty inside. The tenon was the Brigham metal system that held the hard rock maple filter. It did not look like it had ever been changed. I took a photo of the bowl and rim top to show the damage on the front left outer edge of the bowl, the cake in the bowl and the lava build up on the rim top and inner edge of the rim top. It is quite thick and darkens the natural finish of the rim top. The cake was thick and hard but hopefully it had protected the rim and edges from damage. Otherwise it looks pretty good. I also took photos of the stem to show the oxidation on both sides, damage to the button and the light tooth chatter on both sides near the button. I took a photo of the underside of the shank to show the condition of the stamping. You can see the clear stamping reading as noted above.I wrote to Pat and asked her if she would be willing to write short remembrance of her late husband and her Great Grandfather. She wrote that she would be happy to write about them both. Here are Pat’s words:

I’d like you know that Ken was an incredibly talented and creative man with a smile and blue eyes that could light up a room. His laugh was pure magic. He could think outside the box and come up with an elegant solution to any problem…

Pat sent me this reflection on her husband Ken’s life. Thanks Pat for taking time to do this. I find that it gives another dimension to the pipes that I restore to know a bit about the previous pipeman. Pat and Ken were artists (Pat still is a Sculptural Weaver) and it was this that connected them to each other and to John Calich. Here are Pat’s words.

Here is the write up for Ken. We meet in University and it was love at first sight. I consider myself blessed to have shared a life together for 37 years.

Ken graduated from Ryerson University with Bachelor of Applied Arts in Design in 1975.

Ken lived his life with joy.  Each day was a leap of faith in the creative process. His smile would light up the room and the hearts of the people he loved.

He combined the skilled hands of a master craftsman, with the problem solving mind of an engineer, and the heart and soul of an artist. He used his talents to create unique and innovative wood sculptures. Using precious hardwoods, he incorporated the techniques of multiple lamination and three dimensional contouring to create sculptural pieces that captivate the eye and entice the hand to explore.

His career was highlighted by numerous corporate commissions, awards and public recognition in Canada and abroad.

A quote from Frank Lloyd Wright sums up Ken’s approach to design.  “Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be joined as one in a spiritual union.” 

A friendship with John Calich developed over years of exhibiting their work at exhibitions. How could a wood sculptor resist some of John’s finest creations…

I wrote Charles Lemon to get some background information on the pipe. Charles knows Brigham pipes like no one else I know besides he is a great guy. Here is his response

Nice find! The stamps are really nice & clear on that one.

Date-wise, this pipe was made between 1938 and 1955 while the patent for the Brigham System was in force, thus the CAN PAT #. The underlined script logo is another indication of age – that logo was phased out sometime in the early 60s.

Shapes 05, 06 & 07 are classic Straight Dublin shapes from the earliest Brigham lineup, with Shape 05 being the smallest and 07 the largest. There are also Bent Dublin shapes but they are much higher shape numbers and presumably were added to the lineup perhaps decades later.

Hope that helps! Ironically, I was looking at the shape chart just today with an eye to doing an update, so most of this was top of mind! — Charles

I summarize the dating information from Charles now: The pipe is an older one with a Canadian Patent Number. That and the underlined script logo date it between 1938 and 1955. The shape 107 refers to the largest of the classic Straight Dublin pipes in the Brigham line up.

Armed with Pat’s stories of John and her husband Ken and the information from Charles on the background of the pipe it was time to work on the pipe. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet Pipe reamer using the third cutting head. I took the cake back to bare briar so that I could check out the inside walls. I used a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to scrape back the remaining cake. I finished my cleanup of the walls by sanding it with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel.       I scraped the rim top lava with the edge of the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I was able to remove much of the lava. It also helped me to see the damage to the front edge better. It really was a mess.I scrubbed the briar with Before & After Briar Cleaner and rinsed it off with warm running water. I scrubbed the rim top with a tooth brush and warm running water at the same time. I dried the bowl off with a soft microfiber cloth and gave it a light buffing. The photos show the cleaned briar and the damaged areas are very clear.   Once the rim top was clean I could see the extent of the damage to the surface of the rim. The damage was quite extensive and gave the rim the appearance of being out of round. There was also a downward slant to the front edge of the bowl. I topped it on a topping board with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked to flatten out the profile of the rim. I polished the rim surface with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I wiped the top down with alcohol on a cotton pad. I restained it to match the rest of the bowl with three different stain pens – Walnut, Maple and Mahogany. I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each pad. I rubbed the bowl and rim top down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips and a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. Mark Hoover’s Balm is a product that I have come to appreciate and one I use on every pipe I have been working on.     I rubbed the bowl and rim down with Conservator’s Wax and buffed the bowl with a shoe brush. I worked on the internals. I scraped the inside of the mortise with a dental spatula to remove the hardened tars and oils that lined the walls of the metal shank. Once I had that done I cleaned out the airway to the bowl, the mortise and the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. When I finished the pipe smelled very clean.Before I cleaned the shank I removed the hard rock maple filter. I took a new filter out of the box and set it aside for use once I finished the clean up.I wiped down the surface of the vulcanite stem with alcohol. I filled in the deep tooth marks with clear super glue.Once the repairs had cured I used a needle file to reshape and recut the edge of the button and flatten the repaired area.   I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to break up the oxidation. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratching. It is starting to look good.I have one more tin of Denicare Mouthpiece Polish left from a few that I have picked up over the years. It is a coarse red pasted that serves to help remove oxidation. I polished the stem with that to further smooth out the surface of the vulcanite (and to be honest – to use it up).  I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it final coat of oil and set it aside to dry.     This is the sixth and final pipe that I am restoring from Ken’s Estate. It is another a classic Brigham Patent era Large Dublin shaped 107. With the completion of this Brigham I am on the homestretch with Ken’s estate. This is the part I look forward to when each pipe comes back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. 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 classic Brigham rustication and smooth rim top is very nice. The smooth, refinished the rim top, polished and waxed rustication on the bowl look really good with the black vulcanite. This Brigham Patent Era Dublin was a fun and challenging pipe to bring back to life because of the damaged rim top. It is another comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 3/8 inch, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This entire estate was interesting to bring back to life.

Back to My Inherited Collection – Restoring a Custom-Bilt Pot


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

It’s been a while that I had worked on my Grandfather’s pipe collection and that is what I decided to work on as my next project. I had professed my appreciation and liking for Custom-Bilt pipes for their large size, shape, hand feel and the rustic looks.

The Custom-Bilt pipe that is now on my work table is a large Pot shaped pipe, having the trademark scraggy large vertical rustications and very fine, thin horizontal linear rustications in between. This is a beautifully carved pipe with a unique construction in that the chamber appears to be placed inside the outer casing of the briar wood. However, the chamber is carved from the same piece of briar with a smooth rim top surface that is slightly raised above the surrounding rim surface with thin rustications. The short shank is smooth and extends in to the large smooth foot of the stummel. It is stamped on the left side of the shank as “Custom-Bilt” with a hyphen between the two words, in cursive hand. There are two prominent red dots on either side of the shank with a square symbol on the right side of the shank towards the stummel joint. The IMPORTED BRIAR, a commonly observed stamp on these pipes, is conspicuous by its absence on this one!!Having worked on a few Custom Bilt pipes in the past and researched this brand and based on the stampings seen on this pipe, I can say with an amount of certitude, that this pipe is from the period 1938- 46. Here is the proof in determining the vintage based on stampings as researched by William E. Unger, Jr., PhD, which deals with the study of Custom-Bilt pipes.With this confirmation as regards to the vintage of this pipe, I move ahead with the initial visual inspection of this pipe.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The chamber has an even decent layer of cake. The condition of the inner walls of the chamber can be determined only after the cake has been completely reamed out down to the bare briar. The draught hole is dead center and at the bottom of the chamber. This should be a fantastic smoker. The smooth and slightly raised rim top surface has severely charred inner rim edge on the left in 8 o’clock direction and a minor charring on the right side in the 3 o’clock direction, both marked in red circle causing the bowl to appear out of round. The remaining rusticated rim top surface is covered in dust and grime of overflowing lava. The flat bottomed stummel feels solid to the touch and makes for a nice fit in the hands of the smoker. The vertical worm rustication with its horizontal thin line rustications within makes for a visual treat. Though covered in dust and grime of all these years of uncared for storage, these should clean up nicely. The smooth flat bottom of the stummel has a number of perfectly rounded small dings and will need to be addressed. The short and smooth surfaced shank has an aluminum shank/ mortise extension fixed inside of the mortise. I have seen a similar extension on another Custom-Bilt from my Grandfather’s collection which I had restored about a year back!!! This aluminum shank/ mortise extension (or should it be called a tenon?), has two airways, a larger one above a smaller one, both with the same draught hole at the other end. The purpose of these two airways in the same tenon was shrouded in mystery then and to this day, still remains so. Any inputs on this mystery from the esteemed readers will help all other readers in understanding the functional aspects of this dual airway. Both these airways are clogged with oils and tars and dirt from all these years of smoking and storage, making the draw a bit laborious. This draw should even out once the shank extension and shank has been cleaned out.The slightly bent vulcanite stem sits atop the aluminum shank/ mortise extension and is peppered with tooth chatter on either surface of the stem. The edges of the button are slightly damaged due to tooth marks. These issues are not severe and should be easily addressed by sanding. The tenon end of the stem surface is chipped in at number of places with the edges slightly raised (indicated with red arrows). I shall address this issue first by sanding and if required, will fill it with a mix of superglue and activated charcoal. THE PROCESS
I started the restoration of this beautiful pipe by first reaming the chamber with size 3 followed by size 4 head of the PipNet pipe reamer. The amount of cake dislodged from the chamber points to the fact that this would have been a favorite of my Grandfather!! With my fabricated knife, I removed the cake from areas where the reamer head could not reach. I followed this reaming with sanding the chamber walls with a folded piece of 220 grit sand paper to completely remove any residual cake. This also helps to smooth the walls of the chamber. How I miss the help of Abha, my wife and Pavni, my youngest daughter who specializes in sanding the chamber walls to a smooth and even surface. I wiped the chamber with a cotton swab and alcohol to get rid of all the carbon dust and expose the bare briar of the chamber. It was a relief to note that the chamber is sans of any heat fissures/ lines. The next issue that I addressed was that of the charred inner rim edge. With a folded piece of a 220 grit sand paper, the charred surfaces were sanded down till I reached solid briar wood. A bevel to the inner edge would look out of place on this pipe and so it was decided to keep the edges straight. I sand the entire inner rim edge and the chamber with a folded 180 grit sand paper till it matched with the damaged rim edge. The inner rim edge looked good and also the chamber is now nicely rounded. I further sand the entire smooth rim top surface to remove the blackened surface from the charred area and also to get rid of any minor dents/ dings and grime from the surface. I followed up the cleaning of the chamber with that of the shank internals. Using hard and regular pipe cleaners and alcohol, I cleaned the aluminum mortise extension and the shank internals. It was a bit of an exercise to clean the lower of the two air ways as it sloped upwards and posed difficulties in maneuvering the pipe cleaner towards the draught hole. A number of attempts and pipe cleaners later, the shank internals are clean and the draw is nice, smooth and even.The internal cleaning was followed by external cleaning of the stummel surface using Murphy’s Oil soap and a hard bristled tooth brush. I also used a brass wired brush to diligently clean out all the dirt and grime from within the worm rustications. With a shank brush and dish washing soap, I thoroughly cleaned the shank internals and the mortise. I dried the bowl with paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. To expel all the moisture from the shank and the aluminum extension, I blew air through the draught hole and to my chagrin; there were droplets of water that came out from the joint between the shank end and extension (marked with red arrows). This is definitely a sign of leak from the joint. I wiped the area dry and with my sharp dental tool picked the area clean. With a toothpick, I applied clear superglue all around the joint and held it vertical for the glue to seep in to the joint. I was careful to apply a small quantity as I did not want the glue to enter and harden inside of the mortise. I wiped off the extra glue from the shank end as I would disturb the seating of the stem over the aluminum extension. I set the stummel aside for the glue to cure. With the stummel set aside for the glue to cure, it was time to move ahead with the stem restoration. I cleaned the stem internals with pipe cleaners, q-tips and alcohol. With the bent flat end of a dental tool, I scrubbed the dried out oils and tars from the area of the tenon end of the stem that seats on top of the aluminum shank/ mortise extension.I flamed the bite zone with the flame of a lighter. The heating of the vulcanite raises the tooth chatter to the surface and followed it with a light sanding with a piece of 220 grit sand paper to even out the surface around the bite zone. Using a flat head needle file, I reshaped and sharpened the button and button edges. This was followed by sanding the entire stem surface with 400 followed by 600, 800 and 1000 grit sand papers to remove the oxidation. I also evened out the raised indentations from the tenon end caused due to chipping. I finished the sanding with a 0000 grade steel wool. Using progressively higher grit sand papers helps in a smooth surface while minimizing the sanding marks left behind by the more abrasive sanding papers. I wiped the stem with a small amount of Extra Virgin Olive oil and set it aside to be absorbed by the stem surface. While the stem was set aside to hydrate, I worked the stummel, sanding away excess dried glue from the joint between shank end and the aluminum extension. I polished the extension with a piece of 0000 grade steel wool. The next issue that I addressed was the numerous rounded dings from the perfectly flattened foot of the stummel. I decided to steam out these dings since these dings were slightly deeper. I heated my fabricated knife over the flame of a candle till nice and hot. I covered the dings with a thick wet Turkish hand towel and placed the hot knife over it. The sizzling steam that is generated expands the briar and pulled out the dings. I am pretty happy with the results!! I set the stummel to dry out and went ahead with polishing and completing the stem. I followed up the sanding regime with micromesh polishing to bring a shine on the stem surface. I wet sand the stem with 1500 to 2400 girt micromesh pads. Continuing with my experimentation that I had spelled out in my previous posts, I mount a cotton buffing wheel on my hand held rotary tool and polish the stem with Red Rouge polish. Further, I mount a fresh buffing wheel on the rotary tool and polish the stem with White Diamond polish. I finish the stem polish by wet sanding with 6000 to 12000 grit pads of the micromesh. I rub a small quantity of olive oil in to the stem surface to hydrate it and set it aside again. I am really happy with this process of stem polishing as the results are excellent while saving me huge amounts of time and effort. With the stem polishing now completed, I moved ahead with micromesh polishing of the smooth surfaces on the stummel (part of the rim top surface, the short shank and the foot of the stummel). I polished the stummel by wet sanding with 1500 to 12000 micromesh pads.Next, I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to the briar with my finger tips and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance with the beautiful worm rustication patterns on full display. I have been using this balm ever since I embarked on this journey and it is this part of restoration that I always look forward to. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. There are a few spots where I had missed out on the application of the balm, as would have been observed by some discerning readers in pictures below, but let me assure you that I had reapplied the balm using a q-tip but missed out on taking pictures. On to the homestretch!! I mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel on to my hand held rotary tool and apply a coat of Blue Diamond to the stummel and the stem to polish out the minor scratches.With a cotton buffing wheel that I use for carnauba wax, I apply a coat of carnauba wax and continue to work on it till the complete coat of wax had been polished out. I mount a clean cotton cloth buffing wheel and give the entire pipe a once over buff. 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 looks amazingly beautiful and is now ready for its long second innings with me. I only wish it could share with me its life story of the past 70 plus years, if only the pipe could tell some of my grand Old man’s stories and recount incidents it had witnessed while I enjoy smoking my favorite Virginia blend in it!! … Cheers!!

Restoring a Final Calich from Ken Bennett’s Estate – Grade 12 Freehand


Blog by Steve Laug

Early in August I received an email from an interesting woman on Vancouver Island regarding some pipes that she had for sale. She was looking to sell the pipes from her late husband Ken and one from her Great Grandfather. Here is her email:

I have 5 John Calich pipes that date from 1979 to 1981. One is graded 11 and the other four are graded 12. I had bought them as Christmas and birthday gifts for my late husband. He was a very light smoker for a 3 year period.

I am a wood sculptor and always admired the grain and shapes of John’s best pipes. John was a friend as well. We exhibited at many exhibitions together for over 25 years.

I am wondering if you can provide any information on how I might be able to sell them.

Thanks you for any help you might be able to provide

I wrote her back and told I was very interested in the pipes that she had for sale and asked her to send me some photos of the lot. She quickly did just that and we struck a deal. I paid her through an e-transfer and the pipes were on their way to me. They arrived quite quickly and when they did I opened the box and found she had added three more pipes – a Brigham, a Dr. Plumb and a WDC Milano. There was also a wooden cigar box in the package that housed the Calich pipes. They are all lovely looking freehand style shapes – even the two apple shaped pipes had a freehand twist to them. The package also had the BBB Gourd Calabash that I have written about earlier (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/08/27/breathing-new-life-into-a-bbb-gourd-calabash-with-an-amber-stem/). Pat sent me photos of each of the pipes before the deal was struck so I could see the pipes before I made a decision. I kept the photos that she sent me. I have included the two photos of this pipe that she sent me below.I wrote to Pat and asked her if she would be willing to write short remembrance of her late husband and her Great Grandfather. She wrote that she would be happy to write about them both. In her email she included a story about John Calich that I really enjoyed. I decided it was well worth including in this second blog about these Calich pipes.

My best John story is one you won’t likely be able to print.  We were set up beside each other in the late seventies at the Ottawa Tulip Festival in army tents. It was cold and wet. John always had a jar of good tobacco that he shared with past and prospective customers.  One morning a guy that looked like he was dirt poor started chatting with John. He pulled out his cheap pipe and stuffed it too full of the expensive tobacco and then asked John for a light. As he walked away John muttered under his breath to me “I’d like to give him a kick in his pants to get him puffing”

I had to laugh because in conversations I had with John we had some great laughs. He was a real character and this was truly a fitting reminder for me as I was preparing to work on the pipes.

I wrote to Pat again and told her I was thinking of restoring her husband, Ken’s pipes next. She is working on a piece for me but sent along a great story and a photo in case I “need some inspiration while you work”. I have also included that photo and the story below. It indeed was an inspiration and gave me an idea on what pipe to work on first. Here are Pat’s words:

I’d like you know that Ken was an incredibly talented and creative man with a smile and blue eyes that could light up a room. His laugh was pure magic. He could think outside the box and come up with an elegant solution to any problem…

Pat sent me this reflection on her husband Ken’s life. Thanks Pat for taking time to do this. I find that it gives another dimension to the pipes that I restore to know a bit about the previous pipeman. Pat and Ken were artists (Pat still is a Sculptural Weaver) and it was this that connected them to each other and to John Calich. Here are Pat’s words.

Here is the write up for Ken. We meet in University and it was love at first sight. I consider myself blessed to have shared a life together for 37 years.

Ken graduated from Ryerson University with Bachelor of Applied Arts in Design in 1975.

Ken lived his life with joy.  Each day was a leap of faith in the creative process. His smile would light up the room and the hearts of the people he loved.

He combined the skilled hands of a master craftsman, with the problem solving mind of an engineer, and the heart and soul of an artist. He used his talents to create unique and innovative wood sculptures. Using precious hardwoods, he incorporated the techniques of multiple lamination and three dimensional contouring to create sculptural pieces that captivate the eye and entice the hand to explore.

His career was highlighted by numerous corporate commissions, awards and public recognition in Canada and abroad.

A quote from Frank Lloyd Wright sums up Ken’s approach to design.  “Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be joined as one in a spiritual union.” 

A friendship with John Calich developed over years of exhibiting their work at exhibitions. How could a wood sculptor resist some of John’s finest creations…

Pat had included the top of a box that Ken had kept from the pipes he had purchase from John. This fifth Calich pipe also had a very interesting Danish style shape. It is a freehand that I would call a Danish style Dublin Freehand with beautiful grain and a dull finish due to sitting unused in storage. There were some white paint flecks on the sides of the briar. The rim top and the shank end were both plateau. The smooth bowl seemed to have a natural finish almost like oil – I like the way John’s pipes take on a rich patina as they age. The bowl had a cake in it and there was a lava overflow onto the plateau rim top almost filling in the grooves of the plateau and darkening the natural finish. The rim top and edges of the bowl looked to be in excellent condition under the lava. The stamping on the left side of the shank was very faint but under a bright light read CALICH over Hand Made. After that stamping there was a superscript 80 stamped (year it was carved) with a subscript 12 which was the grade number. This was all confirmed by Pat as she had purchased the pipe for her husband Ken. The stem was lightly oxidized as was the single metal dot in the top of the saddle. There was oxidation and light tooth chatter on both sides of the stem on both sides near the button. The shank and stem were dirty inside. I took a photo of the bowl and rim top to show the cake in the bowl and the lava build up in the grooves of the plateau rim top and inner edge of the rim top. It is quite thick and darkens the natural finish of the rim top. The cake was thick and hard but hopefully it had protected the rim and edges from damage. Otherwise it looks pretty good. I also took photos of the stem to show the oxidation on both sides and the light tooth chatter on both sides near the button.    I took a photo of the left side of the shank to show the condition of the stamping. You can see the Calich stamp over Hand Made. Below that is the number 11 with the number 80 above that. The second photo shows the plateau finish on the rim top and shank end. The natural finish of the plateau on the shank end is what clued me to the fact that the rim top probably started that way as well. I decided to include a bit about John Calich the pipemaker as I have loved John Calich’s pipes for over 25 years now and have collected a few of them. I have restored quite a few of them and written blogs about them that can be read if you are interested in seeing the kind of pipes that John made. They are unique and beautiful. Each one of them is a work of art to me. I am including the links to the previous blogs that have written about his pipes.

https://rebornpipes.com/2015/03/03/one-of-my-john-calich-pipes-a-calich-ee-billiard/

https://rebornpipes.com/2019/01/23/i-am-the-happy-owner-of-an-unsmoked-pipe-by-the-late-john-calich/

https://rebornpipes.com/2015/03/03/one-of-my-john-calich-pipes-a-calich-ee-billiard/

https://rebornpipes.com/2014/03/21/reflecting-on-my-collection-of-john-calich-pipes/

Each of the blogs reflects on John’s pipes if you want to get a feel for them take a few minutes and read them.

When John was living I spoke with him several times via phone and had him make some new stems for some of his pipes that I picked up off eBay. He was a very kind gentleman and was always helpful when I spoke with him. He was always ready with encouragement and when I needed to know how to do something when I was first learning to repair pipes he was willing to help. He was one of the old guard of Canadian Pipe makers. I miss him. I am including a short piece from Pipedia on John to give details on his work and the grading of his pipes. The second paragraph below is highlighted in blue as it gives some information on the Grade 12 Apple that I am working on with the single silver dot now.

John Calich, courtesy Doug Valitchka

John Calich was one of Canada’s finest carvers. He died in July 2008. John was a full time pipe maker for the last 40 years. Calich pipes were mostly traditional shapes. His signature style is rustication and smooth on the same pipe along with his unique skill to stain a pipe in contrasting colors. He used only top quality Grecian and Calabrian briar. The mouthpieces are hand finished Vulcanite “A”. Each pipe was entirely made by hand. John Calich was featured in the summer 2005 issue of Pipes & Tobacco.

His pipes are graded 3E – 7E. Retail prices range from$ 145.00 to $ 500.00 Each pipe is stamped “CALICH” 3-8E, his earlier pipes were graded from 3-14, and a single, tiny silver dot is applied to the top of the stem (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Calich).

I summarize the dating information from those blogs now: From my research and conversations I learned that John’s his later pipes were graded 3E – 8E. The retail prices for them ranged from $145.00 to $500.00. Each pipe was stamped “CALICH” and given an E grade. His earlier pipes were graded from 3-14 and had a single, tiny silver dot applied to the top of the stem. More information can be found at the Pipedia article above. All of this information told me as expected that the pipe I had was an earlier one.

Armed with Pat’s stories of John and her husband Ken and the information about John’s grading system it was time to work on the pipe. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet Pipe reamer using the third cutting head. I took the cake back to bare briar so that I could check out the inside walls. I used a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to scrape back the remaining cake. I finished my cleanup of the walls by sanding it with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel.      I scrubbed the briar with Before & After Briar Cleaner and rinsed it off with warm running water. I scrubbed the rim top with a tooth brush and warm running water at the same time. I dried the bowl off with a soft microfiber cloth and gave it a light buffing. The photos show the cleaned briar and the grain is really beginning to pop. John once again really followed the grain on the shaping of this pipe.  I worked on the internals. I scraped the inside of the mortise with a dental spatula to remove the hardened tars and oils that lined the walls of the shank. Once I had that done I cleaned out the airway to the bowl, the mortise and the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. When I finished the pipe smelled very clean. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each pad. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. Mark Hoover’s Balm is a product that I have come to appreciate and one I use on every pipe I have been working on.   I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to break up the oxidation. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratching. It is starting to look good.   I have one more tin of Denicare Mouthpiece Polish left from a few that I have picked up over the years. It is a coarse red pasted that serves to help remove oxidation. I polished the stem with that to further smooth out the surface of the vulcanite (and to be honest – to use it up).    I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it final coat of oil and set it aside to dry. This is the fifth and final Calich from Ken’s Estate that I am working on. It is another beautifully grained Danish style Freehand shaped Hand Made. It has the kind of beauty I have come to expect from John’s pipes with plateau on the rim top and shank end. I am excited to be on the homestretch with Ken’s estate. This is the part I look forward to when each pipe comes back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. 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 straight and flame grain on the sides of the bowl and birdseye grain on the front and back side of the bowl. The grain is really quite stunning. The plateau on the rim top and shank end was also natural though had been darkened over time. The polished smooth finish look really good with the black vulcanite. This Calich Hand Made was another fun pipe to bring back to life because of the story that Pat shared with us. The connection between Ken and Pat and John Calich adds colour. The natural finish and the plateau rim top and shank end makes this Danish style pipe look attractive. It is another comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 2 ¼ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ¾ inch, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is entire estate was interesting to bring back to life.   

Restoring a Fourth Calich from Ken Bennett’s Estate – Grade 11 (80) Canted Egg


Blog by Steve Laug

Early in August I received an email from an interesting woman on Vancouver Island regarding some pipes that she had for sale. She was looking to sell the pipes from her late husband Ken and one from her Great Grandfather. Here is her email:

I have 5 John Calich pipes that date from 1979 to 1981. One is graded 11 and the other four are graded 12. I had bought them as Christmas and birthday gifts for my late husband. He was a very light smoker for a 3 year period.

I am a wood sculptor and always admired the grain and shapes of John’s best pipes. John was a friend as well. We exhibited at many exhibitions together for over 25 years.

I am wondering if you can provide any information on how I might be able to sell them.

Thanks you for any help you might be able to provide

I wrote her back and told I was very interested in the pipes that she had for sale and asked her to send me some photos of the lot. She quickly did just that and we struck a deal. I paid her through an e-transfer and the pipes were on their way to me. They arrived quite quickly and when they did I opened the box and found she had added three more pipes – a Brigham, a Dr. Plumb and a WDC Milano. There was also a wooden cigar box in the package that housed the Calich pipes. They are all lovely looking freehand style shapes – even the two apple shaped pipes had a freehand twist to them. The package also had the BBB Gourd Calabash that I have written about earlier (https://rebornpipes.com/2019/08/27/breathing-new-life-into-a-bbb-gourd-calabash-with-an-amber-stem/). Pat sent me photos of each of the pipes before the deal was struck so I could see the pipes before I made a decision. I kept the photos that she sent me. I have included the two photos of this pipe that she sent me below.    I wrote to Pat and asked her if she would be willing to write short remembrance of her late husband and her Great Grandfather. She wrote that she would be happy to write about them both. In her email she included a story about John Calich that I really enjoyed. I decided it was well worth including in this second blog about these Calich pipes.

My best John story is one you won’t likely be able to print.  We were set up beside each other in the late seventies at the Ottawa Tulip Festival in army tents. It was cold and wet. John always had a jar of good tobacco that he shared with past and prospective customers.  One morning a guy that looked like he was dirt poor started chatting with John. He pulled out his cheap pipe and stuffed it too full of the expensive tobacco and then asked John for a light. As he walked away John muttered under his breath to me “I’d like to give him a kick in his pants to get him puffing”

I had to laugh because in conversations I had with John we had some great laughs. He was a real character and this was truly a fitting reminder for me as I was preparing to work on the pipes.

I wrote to Pat again and told her I was thinking of restoring her husband, Ken’s pipes next. She is working on a piece for me but sent along a great story and a photo in case I “need some inspiration while you work”. I have also included that photo and the story below. It indeed was an inspiration and gave me an idea on what pipe to work on first. Here are Pat’s words:

I’d like you know that Ken was an incredibly talented and creative man with a smile and blue eyes that could light up a room. His laugh was pure magic. He could think outside the box and come up with an elegant solution to any problem…

Pat sent me this reflection on her husband Ken’s life. Thanks Pat for taking time to do this. I find that it gives another dimension to the pipes that I restore to know a bit about the previous pipeman. Pat and Ken were artists (Pat still is a Sculptural Weaver) and it was this that connected them to each other and to John Calich. Here are Pat’s words.

Here is the write up for Ken. We meet in University and it was love at first sight. I consider myself blessed to have shared a life together for 37 years.

Ken graduated from Ryerson University with Bachelor of Applied Arts in Design in 1975.

Ken lived his life with joy.  Each day was a leap of faith in the creative process. His smile would light up the room and the hearts of the people he loved.

He combined the skilled hands of a master craftsman, with the problem solving mind of an engineer, and the heart and soul of an artist. He used his talents to create unique and innovative wood sculptures. Using precious hardwoods, he incorporated the techniques of multiple lamination and three dimensional contouring to create sculptural pieces that captivate the eye and entice the hand to explore.

His career was highlighted by numerous corporate commissions, awards and public recognition in Canada and abroad.

A quote from Frank Lloyd Wright sums up Ken’s approach to design.  “Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be joined as one in a spiritual union.” 

A friendship with John Calich developed over years of exhibiting their work at exhibitions. How could a wood sculptor resist some of John’s finest creations…

Pat had included the top of a box that Ken had kept from the pipes he had purchase from John. I used the box top as a back drop for the photos of the pipe. This fourth Calich pipe also had a very interesting shape. It is a freehand that I would call a stylized egg with beautiful grain and a dull finish due to sitting unused in storage. The left side and underside of the bowl were sculpted with a groove that ran down the back left and under the shank. There was also a groove sculpted on the front of the bowl. The rim top was smooth. The smooth bowl seemed to have a natural finish almost like oil – I like the way John’s pipes take on a rich patina as they age. The bowl had a cake in it and there was a lava overflow on the rim top on the back side and darkening the natural finish. The rim top and edges of the bowl were in excellent condition under the lava. The stamping on the left side of the shank read CALICH over Hand Made. After that stamping there was a superscript 80 stamped (year it was carved) with a subscript 11 which was the grade number. The stem was lightly oxidized as was the single metal dot in the top of the saddle. There was light tooth chatter on both sides of the stem on both sides near the button. The shank and stem were dirty inside.    I took a photo of the bowl and rim top to show the cake in the bowl and the lava build up on the surface and inner edge of the rim top. It is quite thick and darkens the natural finish of the rim top. The cake was thick and hard but hopefully it had protected the rim and edges from damage. Otherwise it looks pretty good. I also took photos of the stem to show the oxidation on both sides and the light tooth chatter on both sides near the button.      I took a photo of the left side of the shank to show the condition of the stamping. You can see the Calich stamp over Hand Made. Below that is the number 11 with the number 80 above that. The second photo shows the plateau finish on the rim top and shank end. The natural finish of the plateau on the shank end is what clued me to the fact that the rim top probably started that way as well.I decided to include a bit about John Calich the pipemaker as I have loved John Calich’s pipes for over 25 years now and have collected a few of them. I have restored quite a few of them and written blogs about them that can be read if you are interested in seeing the kind of pipes that John made. They are unique and beautiful. Each one of them is a work of art to me. I am including the links to the previous blogs that have written about his pipes.

https://rebornpipes.com/2015/03/03/one-of-my-john-calich-pipes-a-calich-ee-billiard/

https://rebornpipes.com/2019/01/23/i-am-the-happy-owner-of-an-unsmoked-pipe-by-the-late-john-calich/

https://rebornpipes.com/2015/03/03/one-of-my-john-calich-pipes-a-calich-ee-billiard/

https://rebornpipes.com/2014/03/21/reflecting-on-my-collection-of-john-calich-pipes/

Each of the blogs reflects on John’s pipes if you want to get a feel for them take a few minutes and read them.

When John was living I spoke with him several times via phone and had him make some new stems for some of his pipes that I picked up off eBay. He was a very kind gentleman and was always helpful when I spoke with him. He was always ready with encouragement and when I needed to know how to do something when I was first learning to repair pipes he was willing to help. He was one of the old guard of Canadian Pipe makers. I miss him. I am including a short piece from Pipedia on John to give details on his work and the grading of his pipes. The second paragraph below is highlighted in blue as it gives some information on the Grade 12 Apple that I am working on with the single silver dot now.

John Calich, courtesy Doug Valitchka

John Calich was one of Canada’s finest carvers. He died in July 2008. John was a full time pipe maker for the last 40 years. Calich pipes were mostly traditional shapes. His signature style is rustication and smooth on the same pipe along with his unique skill to stain a pipe in contrasting colors. He used only top quality Grecian and Calabrian briar. The mouthpieces are hand finished Vulcanite “A”. Each pipe was entirely made by hand. John Calich was featured in the summer 2005 issue of Pipes & Tobacco.

His pipes are graded 3E – 7E. Retail prices range from$ 145.00 to $ 500.00 Each pipe is stamped “CALICH” 3-8E, his earlier pipes were graded from 3-14, and a single, tiny silver dot is applied to the top of the stem (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Calich).

I summarize the dating information from those blogs now: From my research and conversations I learned that John’s his later pipes were graded 3E – 8E. The retail prices for them ranged from $145.00 to $500.00. Each pipe was stamped “CALICH” and given an E grade. His earlier pipes were graded from 3-14 and had a single, tiny silver dot applied to the top of the stem. More information can be found at the Pipedia article above. All of this information told me as expected that the pipe I had was an earlier one.

Armed with Pat’s stories of John and her husband Ken and the information about John’s grading system it was time to work on the pipe. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet Pipe reamer using the third cutting head. I took the cake back to bare briar so that I could check out the inside walls. I used a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to scrape back the remaining cake. I finished my cleanup of the walls by sanding it with 220 grit sandpaper wrapped around a piece of dowel.      I scrubbed the briar with Before & After Briar Cleaner and rinsed it off with warm running water. I scrubbed the rim top with a tooth brush and warm running water at the same time. I dried the bowl off with a soft microfiber cloth and gave it a light buffing. The photos show the cleaned briar and the grain is really beginning to pop. John really followed the grain on the shaping of this pipe. There was a deep gouge on the underside of the bowl, in the middle of the heel. It had sharp edges so it was not a gouge that could be raised with steam. I filled it in with a drop of clear super glue and let it cure. Once it had cured I sanded it smooth with 240 grit sandpaper and with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit sanding pads. I wiped it down with a damp cloth after each pad. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. Mark Hoover’s Balm is a product that I have come to appreciate and one I use on every pipe I have been working on.    With the externals cleaned I worked on the internals. I scraped the inside of the mortise with a dental spatula to remove the hardened tars and oils that lined the walls of the shank. Once I had that done I cleaned out the airway to the bowl, the mortise and the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. When I finished the pipe smelled very clean. I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to break up the oxidation. I started the polishing with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to remove the scratching. It is starting to look good.    I have one more tin of Denicare Mouthpiece Polish left from a few that I have picked up over the years. It is a coarse red pasted that serves to help remove oxidation. I polished the stem with that to further smooth out the surface of the vulcanite (and to be honest – to use it up).    I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each sanding pad with Obsidian Oil. I polished it with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine. Once I had finished the polishing I gave it final coat of oil and set it aside to dry.     This is the fourth Calich from Ken’s Estate that I am working on. It is another beautifully grained Egg shaped Hand Made freehand. It has the kind of beauty I have come to expect from John’s pipes with a sculpted groove on the front and down the left side of the bowl and under the shank. The rim top is smooth and angled forward. I am excited to be on the homestretch with another one of Ken’s pipes. This is the part I look forward to when it all comes back together, polished and waxed. I put the bowl and stem back together. I polished the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond to polish out the scratches in the briar and the vulcanite. 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 straight and flame grain on the sides of the bowl and birdseye grain on the front and back side of the bowl. The grain is really quite stunning. The smooth rim top also is covered with birdseye grain. The polished smooth finish look really good with the black vulcanite. This Calich Hand Made was another fun pipe to bring back to life because of the story that Pat shared with us. The connection between Ken and Pat and John Calich adds colour. The natural finish and the sculpted grooves on the front  and left side makes the pipe look attractive. It is another comfortable pipe to hold in the hand. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 1/2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 ½ inch, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. Thanks for reading this blog and my reflections on the pipe while I worked on it. This is an interesting estate to bring back to life.