Blog by Steve Laug
Sometimes on a pipe hunt you have a surprising find. We look for pipes wherever we go so we go through a lot of shops and look at a lot of pipes. Many are just junk we leave behind but there are always some good ones. The next one was purchased on 10/20/22 from an antique store in Vancouver, Washington, USA. Jeff found it and excited when he saw it and more excited when he picked it up. It is a filthy looking Billiard with a Cumberland stem. It turned out to be a Dunhill pipe. It is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Dunhill (in an oval). To the left of it the shape number 3103 is stamped. On the right side of the shank it is stamped AMBER ROOT [over] Made in England35. The 35 identifies the date of the pipe. The pipe was in rough shape. The outside of the bowl and shank were heavily coated in thick oils that were almost black. The bowl had a thick cake that overflowed as lava onto the rim top. The Cumberland stem was oxidized, calcified, coated in sludge but had little or no tooth damage on the stem top or underside. The shank was so coated with internal sludge that the stem did not fit the shank well. Jeff took photos of the pipe when he found it and before he started the clean up. Try to imagine how the pipe smelled and felt. Even your imagination cannot begin to capture the smells or feelings of the briar in your hand. The heavy cake in the bowl flows from the bottom up and all over the rim top and edges. It was impossible to know what the condition of the top and edges was underneath that thick, rock hard coating. The Cumberland stem was dirty, oxidized and calcified but had only light tooth chatter on both sides. Jeff took photos of the bowl, rim top and the stem to show the condition of both. The photos of the sides and heel of the bowl show the grain peeking through but it is almost impossible to see what the finish is underneath the thick sludge. I am hoping that underneath the thick grit it is a real beauty. The stamping on the sides of the shank are shown in the photos below. It looks very good with portions of it faint but readable. It reads as noted and explained above. Jeff captured the detail in the photos below. I wanted to unpack the Dunhill stamping on the shank and work to understand each element of the stamp. I generally use the Pipephil site to gather as much initial information as possible (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/amber1.html). The stamping is interpreted as follows: The number 3103 is the shape number that unpacks as follows: the 3 is the bowl size, 1 is the normal identifier for a taper stem, 03 is the shape designation – a billiard. The Amber Root stamp refers to the finish. The superscript 35 following the D of England would give the date the pipe.Pipephil also has some helpful dating keys on the site that are basically flow charts that you can walk through to date your pipe (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/cledat-en1.html). I turned to Part 1 of the Dating Key and followed the chart. This pipe has a superscript 35 following the D in England. There was no patent number so that took me to the section on the chart below (column one) which instructed me that the pipe could be dated as being made “posterior to 1954”.I followed the link under “Your pipe is posterior to 1954. Narrow down your dating”. That took me to Page 2 of the dating key (http://pipephil.eu/logos/en/dunhill/cledat-en1a.html). The second column (suffix 1…4) or (11…39) led me to the section with a 35 after the D in England. There was a directive for dating the pipe spelled out as follows: 1960 + suffix which gives the pipe a date of 1995. From that I knew that the pipe was made in 1995 but since the last digit was covered I could not identify the exact year. I then turned to Pipedia’s section on Dunhill Cumberland to get a bit of background on the Dunhill finishes (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Dunhill#Root_Briar). I quote:
Amber Root – Introduced in 1995. A warm yellow-orange stain, reminiscent of the original Root Briar finish. Cumberland stems were used, although recently, Amber Root pipes have appeared with black stems. This is also a limited production pipe that is found in mainly Company stores and Principle Pipe Dealers. Straight grained pipes are made available in this finish under the name Amber-flame and are graded from one to three flames.
Note: While the Amber Root finish existed in the past with Cumberland and black Vulcanite mouthpieces (now we use usually the black Vulcanite variety only).
I have also included a chart from the site spelling out the Standard Pipe Finishes and giving a timeline. You can see that the Amber Root Finish (a smooth polished medium stain) was introduced in 1995 so this is definitely from the first year of the release of that finish from the factory. I turned to work on the pipe itself. Jeff had done an amazing cleanup of the pipe. He reamed the light cake with a PipNet reamer and cleaned up that with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He scrubbed the internals of the bowl and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. He scrubbed the externals with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and rinsed the bowl off with running water. He soaked the stem in Briarville’s Pipe stem Deoxidizer and once it had soaked rinsed it off with warm water to remove the residual solution. He dried it off and rubbed it down to remove any oxidation that was still on the stem. The pipe looked very good when I received it. I took a photo of the rim top to show the condition. You can see the clean bowl. The rim top and inner edge are damaged and the bowl is slightly out of round. The stem came out looking quite good. There are some scratches, light tooth marks and chatter on both sides ahead of the button. I took a photo of the sides of the shank to show the stamping. The photo shows the stamping and is actually more readable in person.I removed the stem from the shank and took a photo of the pipe parts to show what I was working with. It is a nice looking pipe.I worked on the inside and top of the rim with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper and a wooden ball to clean up the damage on the rim top and edges. I used a folded piece of 220 to clean up the inner edge even more. It would take some work but this was a good start. I polished the cleaned up rim top and edges with micromesh sanding pads – dry sanding with 1500-12000 grit pads and wiping the bowl down with a damp cloth to remove the dust. The rim top came out looking very good. I rubbed the briar down with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the briar with my fingertips. The product works to clean, enliven and preserve the briar. I let it sit for 10 minutes then I buffed it with a cotton cloth to deepen the shine. The briar comes alive with the balm. I set the bowl aside and turned to address the stem issues. I “painted” the surface of the stem with the flame of a Bic lighter to lift the tooth marks. I was able to lift them considerably. I filled in what remained with clear CA glue. Once the glue cured I flattened the repairs with a small flat file. I sanded them with 220 grit sandpaper to blend them into the surface and started polishing the stem with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper. I polished the vulcanite with micromesh sanding pads – 1500-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine to further polish the stem. This 1995 Dunhill Amber Root 3103 Billiard with a Cumberland taper stem has a beautiful, unique Dunhill smooth finish with great grain. The medium orange brown finish highlights some great grain around the bowl and shank. It has a unique finish and the polished Cumberland taper stem adds to the mix. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel being careful to not buff the stamping. I gave the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax on the buffing wheel and followed that by buffing it with a clean buffing pad. I hand buffed the pipe with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished Dunhill Amber Root 3103 Billiard is quite nice and feels great in the hand. Give the finished pipe a look in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are Length: 5 ½ inches, Height: 1 ¾ inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/8 inch, Chamber diameter: ¾ of an inch. The weight of the pipe is 1.20 ounces/33 grams. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over another beautiful pipe. I will be adding it to the rebornpipes store soon in the British Pipe Makers Section. If you want to add it to your collection let me know. Thanks for your time.