Tag Archives: turning a tenon

Finishing the Restoration and Restemming a Custom-Bilt Billiard


Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I was speaking with Paresh and Abha on Facetime and they showed me a second pipe that they wanted me to finish for them. This one was a Custom-Bilt billiard that had come to him from the estate of his Grandfather. It had a threaded tenon stem and a shank that had no threads. I have never seen a Custom-Bilt with a threaded mortise and tenon so it was a fair assumption that the stem was not original. It had been wrapped with glue and tape to make it fit in the shank and the fit was awful. Paresh wanted me to fit a new stem on the pipe for him. Abha had done a magnificent job cleaning the pipe so it was really a simple restoration for me – just fit a stem and finish the bowl. The briar was clean and lifeless so it would need some attention to breathe life into it again. He wanted me to pick up where he had left off and finish the pipe for him. The pipe was stamped on the left side of the shank Custom-Bilt and on the underside it was stamped Imported Briar. It would be interesting to see what I could do with it. When the pipe arrived this is what it looked like. You can see the remnants of wrapping and glue on the metal threaded tenon. There were tooth marks in the surface of the vulcanite stem on both the top and underside near the button. The first photo below shows the rim top and the inside of the bowl. Both were very clean and the rustication was in great condition as were the inner and outer edges of the bowl. The second photo shows the end of the shank with the glue on the inside of the mortise and the lack of threads that would be present if the tenon that was on the stem would work with this pipe.I took some photos of the stamping on the left and underside of the shank. The left side reads Custom-Bilt and the underside reads Imported Briar.I took close up photos of the stem. You can see the metal tenon on the end of the stem. There is some oxidation and there are the tooth marks on the stem top and underside.I wanted to refresh my memory on the history of the brand. I knew that his one was one of Tracy Mincer’s pipes because of the hyphenated name stamp. I looked on Pipedia and read Richard Esserman’s write up on Bill Unger’s Book. He gives a great summary of the history there. I quote a section of it below. (https://pipedia.org/wiki/Custom-Bilt(Rich Esserman))Tracy Mincer started the original Custom-Bilt pipes it appears in 1934. Bill meticulously details the start of the Company, how it was financed, the changes in the original ownership, how the company distributed its product, the manufacturing process, certain patented items, and other interesting stuff.

Mentioned briefly in this chapter was the fact that Custom-Bilt was producing big, carved pipes using Algerian briar for production up to WW II. One important employee, Hetzer Hartsock, stated: I can tell you something about that rough texture that Custom-Bilt had. One reason rough textured was used was not only for looks but it could hide flaws in the briar. [The process gave] A very uncontrolled cut. Then he [Tracy] would buff it out. [page 25]

Custom-Bilt pipes retailed between $5.00 and $15.00 in the 1940s. According to an ad, standard Dunhill pipes were selling for $12.00 and $13.50, Parker pipes $7.50, GBD for $6.00 and Comoy’s $7.50. Not mentioned was that special Dunhills could retail up to $100 and certain Comoy’s up to $25.

In 1946, the name was changed to Custombilt after Mincer began an association with Eugene J. Rich, Inc. There were some big changes in advertising and distribution. The slogan “AS INDIVIDUAL AS A THUMBPRINT” began at this time as well.

In the early 1950’s, Tracy Mincer developed severe financial problems that caused him to stop making the Custombilt, and he lost the name. In 1953, Leonard Rodgers bought the company and emphasized tobacco pouches and butane lighters. (However, it appears Mincer was working on his new pipe, the Doodler.) In 1968, Rodgers sold the Company to Consolidated Cigars. In the early 1970s, Wally Frank Co. bought the Custombilt trademark and began to produce their version of the pipe in 1974 or 1975. Hollco Rohr owned the Weber pipe factory, located in New Jersey, and produced the Custombilt pipes there. In 1987, the pipes were made out of the Butz-Choquin factory (France) and then Mexico until the late 1990s. Currently, the Custombilt name is owned by Tobacalera of Spain.

I set the bowl aside and decided to work on the stem. The diameter of the stem was perfect for the pipe so I needed to remove the metal threaded tenon and replace it with a Delrin tenon. I heated and scraped away all of the glue and tape on the threads of the tenon and those that bound it to the stem. I held it tight with vise grip pliers and turned the stem. It would not come out no matter how I turned or pulled on it. I decided I would have to use more drastic measures. Using the vise grip pliers as a vise I set up my cordless drill to drill out the tenon. I started with a bit slightly larger than the airway in the tenon and drilled it. I was hoping it would catch and pull the tenon out. First bit was a failure. I worked my way up to a bit slightly smaller than the diameter of the tenon and worked on it. The extended portion of the tenon broke off and I was left with the piece in the stem. I drilled it out with a bit and the bit grabbed the piece and it all came out.Once the metal was removed from the stem I cleaned out the hole in the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners to remove the debris. I smoothed out the threads to leave grooves in the tenon insert. Once I had it smoothed out enough I tried it in the stem. The fit was perfect. I cut deeper grooves in the tenon with a file and coated it with black super glue. I pressed it into the stem and lined it up so the fit was straight.  I set it aside to let the glue cure. While the glue cured I worked on the bowl. I scraped the glue out of the inside of the mortise using a pen knife. The glue had hardened so it took repeated scraping to get rid of it and bring the mortise back to bare wood.When the glue cured I tried the fit of the stem in the mortise. The stem fit well on the shank. I put it in place on the shank and took photos of the pipe at this point in the process. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar with my fingertips and into the rustication patterns with a horsehair shoe brush to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little while and then buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to raise the shine. The following photos show the bowl at this point in the restoration process. The grain is really starting to stand out. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil to remove the sanding dust on the vulcanite. I wiped it down with a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set it aside to dry. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. 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 natural oil finish works well when polished to really highlight the variety of grains around the bowl and shank. The polished black vulcanite stem works together with the beautiful grain and worm trail rustication in the briar to give the pipe a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 5 3/4 inches, Height: 1 3/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. I will be sending the pipe back with the others that belong to Paresh. I have one pipe left to finish for him. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this well-made Tracy Mincer Custom-Bilt. 

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Crafting a New Stem for a Cortina Factory Denmark 22 Freehand Stack


Blog by Steve Laug

The next pipe on the table was one that my brother Jeff picked up on an eBay auction from a seller in Franklin Tennessee almost two years ago. I know it seems like a long time ago and I suppose it is but I have boxes of pipes to refurbish here and this one came up today! It was in a box with the freehand pipes that I have been working my way through. It is an interestingly shaped sandblast pipe that is a stack. When I first looked at it I did not see any stamping on the shank. As I examined it today I found stamping on the thin band of smooth briar between the horn shank extension and the bowl. It stamped around the band and reads CORTINA FACTORY DENMARK with the shape number 22. The pipe looked pretty good when he got it from the seller. There was dirt and grime in sandblast finish on the bowl. The horn shank extension was oxidized and tired looking. There was a metal mortise inset in the horn to protect it from splitting. There was a light cake in the bowl and the inner and out edges of the bowl were in good shape. The contrast brown finish on the pipe was in excellent condition. I am not sure if the stem on the pipe was the original as the tenon was very long and the fit in the shank was snug but not deep. It was lightly oxidized but in decent condition. I think a stem with a shorter tenon and snug fit to the shank would work well. I would also see if I could shape one to follow the shape of the horn extension. I would have to see what I could find in the can of stems. Jeff took photos of the pipe before he started his cleanup up work. Jeff took photos of the stamping on the pipe. The first photo shows the shape number 22 on the smooth band. The second shows the CORTINA stamp on the smooth band. The third and fourth photos show the stamping Denmark Factory. The next photo shows the shank end – a mottled horn with the metal mortise insert. The stem is in place but you can see that the diameter of the tenon is smaller in diameter than the insert. The second photo below shows the striations in the horn shank extension. The stem was dented and worn. I wanted to replace it with a different stem than the replacement that came in it so I was not too concerned with the stem condition.Jeff had scrubbed the exterior of the bowl with Murphy’s Oil soap and removed the dust and grime that had accumulated there. The finish looked very good once it had been scrubbed. He lightly reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and cleaned it up with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. He cleaned the interior of the mortise and the airway in the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. The pipe came to me clean and ready to do the restoration and restemming. I took some photos of the bowl to show the condition at this point in the process. I took some photos of the horn shank extension. At first I thought it was acrylic but as I worked on it I was sure that it was real horn. It was a unique and pretty piece of polished horn. It need to be polished but it was unsplit and in good condition.As has become my practice when working on restoring pipes I did some research on the Cortina Factory Denmark brand name. Pipedia noted the brand but had no information to give in terms of the company or a time frame. I also looked on Pipephil’s site and found a listing for the brand. I have included a screen capture from that site (http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-c7.html). The first pipe in the photo shows the Cortina brand and stamp that is the same as on the pipe I am working on. The second one is attached to the Georg Jensen brand and the stamping is actually very similar. It makes me wonder if the Cortina was not a line of pipes made by Georg Jensen. I have no proof of that other than the connection shown in the screen capture below.I started my restoration of the pipe armed with the little bit of information that I could find on the brand. I polished the horn shank extension with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the bowl down with a damp cloth after each sanding pad to remove the sanding dust. Once I had finished with the last pad I wiped it down with Obsidian Oil to enliven the horn and preserve it. I turned from the horn shank extension to work on the sandblast briar of the bowl. I rubbed the bowl down with Before & After Restoration Balm to deep clean the briar bowl and the rim top as well as the briar shank. The product works to clean, enliven and protect the briar. I hand rubbed it with my fingers, working it into the exterior of the pipe. I worked it into the blast with a horsehair shoe brush. After it had been sitting for a little while I buffed it with a soft cloth to polish it. The pipe really began to have a rich shine. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. I had a stem in my can of stems that had turned portions that as the shape of the shank extension on the pipe. Once the stem is cleaned up I will point out the shapes more clearly. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper to shape the tenon to fit in the mortise. I sanded the oxidation to remove it from the rest of the stem. I took a photo of the new stem next to the one that had come with the bowl. You can see the variation in the shape of the stem. The top one has a very long tenon that fit into the shank up to the spot where the oxidation begins. It is longer than the new stem and the shape is not quite right. On the new stem I have boxed in the shapes in red that parallel the shape of the shank extension.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with a damp cloth to remove the sanding dust on the acrylic. I polished the stem with Before & After Pipe Stem Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine and I set it aside to dry. I polished stem and bowl with Blue Diamond to polish out the remaining small scratches. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The pipe polished up pretty nicely. The contrasting brown stain on the sandblast, the variegated swirls in the horn shank extension and the polished vulcanite stem worked together to give the pipe a unique look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This is one of those interesting unknown Danish Pipes that I think could possibly lead back to Georg Jensen but we will probably never know for sure. The shape, finish and flow of the pipe and stem are very well done. The dimensions are Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 2 1/4 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. This one will be added to the rebornpipes store soon. If you are interested in adding it to your collection send me an email to slaug@uniserve.com or send me a message on Facebook. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this piece of Danish pipe making history.

Converting a Brigham Voyageur 109 into a Churchwarden


Blog by Steve Laug

This is the last pipe I am working on from the fellow here in Vancouver that he dropped off. There were 8 pipes in the lot – I have all eight of them now. This one is a Brigham bowl without the stem or other parts. The pipe is an apple shaped bowl that is stamped on the left side of the shank and reads Brigham over Voyageur over 109 Italy in a smooth panel on the rusticated bowl. The shank end had nicks and chips but was in fair condition. There was no stem with the bowl. The stem would have had the lighter weight nylon system tenon since the pipe is one of the Italian made Brighams. It was another one of his pipe finds on a recent pipe hunt in Vancouver. The rusticated finish had almost a scale like rustication pattern with flecks of paint in the finish. The rim top was damaged and was darkened toward the back of the bowl. The finish was very dirty and there was a thick cake in the bowl.  When we had first spoken about this pipe we had talked about replacing the stem with a Brigham stem. I talked with Charles Lemon and he sent me a stem blank and an aluminum system shank for the Brigham. When it arrived I talked with the Vancouver fellow about that and together we came to the conclusion that a churchwarden stem might look good on it. I ordered some from JH Lowe and found that they only have one diameter size stem. I ordered it and when it arrived it was significantly smaller in diameter than the shank. I had an interesting copper ferrule that I thought might work to provide a different look to the pipe and provide a way of using the smaller diameter churchwarden stem. I slipped the ferrule on the shank and put the stem partially in place in the mortise and took the following photos to send to the fellow to see what he thought. He liked it so I moved forward.I slipped the ferrule off the shank and took a photo of the stamping on the left side of the shank. It is very clear and readable. I sanded the outside of the shank to provide a smooth seat for the ferrule. I cleaned out the inside of the shank with a dental spatula to remove the heavy tar buildup on the shank walls. I heated the metal ferrule with a heat gun and pressed it onto the shank against a solid board.I heated the copper ferrule over a heat gun and pressed the ferrule onto the shank end. I repeated the process until it was set on the shank as far as I wanted it to be. To remove the paint flecks on the rusticated finish on the bowl I scrubbed it with a brass bristle wire brush and used a dental pick to remove the flecks. I wiped down the bowl with alcohol on a cotton pad to remove the dust and debris from the finish. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet Piper Reamer using the first two cutting heads to remove the majority of the cake. I cleaned up the remnants on the walls of the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife. I used a dowel wrapped with sandpaper to sand down the walls on the bowl. I cleaned out the airway in both the bowl and stem with alcohol (99% isopropyl), pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they were clean on the inside. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the finish with my fingertips and finished working it in with a shoe brush. The balm worked to clean, preserve and enliven the surface of the finish on the small bowl. The briar was coming alive so I took some photos of the pipe at this point. I polished the rim top with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I also polished the smooth portions of the rustication with the micromesh pads at the same time. I wiped the rim top down after each sanding pad with a damp cloth. I gave the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and buffed the bowl with a shoe brush. I buffed it with a clean buffing pad and took the photos that follow. I set the bowl aside and worked on the stem. I turned the tenon down on the churchwarden stem with a PIMO tenon turning tool. I took it down to about the diameter it needed to be for the shank. I used a Dremel and sanding drum to round down the edges of the stem above the tenon and also the casting marks on the stem. I wanted to make the stem more like a military mount stem.  I heated the vulcanite with a votive candle until it was flexible and put a slight bend in it that fit the look I was going for with the pipe.  I sanded the Dremel marks out of the tapered end of the stem and shaped the tenon some more with 220 grit sandpaper. I worked on the casting marks on the stem sides and around the button. I worked over the end of the stem to smooth out the area around the slot.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. After the final pad I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and set the stem aside to dry. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I used a light touch to keep the polishing compound from filling in the grooves in the rustication. I carefully avoided the stamping on the left side of the shank. I gave both the bowl multiple coats of Conservator’s Wax and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. This is the last of his pipes that I have to work on. This has been a fun bunch of pipes to work on. Thanks for looking. 

Restoring & Restemming a Zettervig Handmade 351 Freehand


Blog by Steve Laug

This is another pipe from the fellow here in Vancouver that he dropped off for me to work on. There were 8 pipes in the lot – I have finished five and this is the sixth. It is a Brandy shaped freehand bowl stamped on the underside of the shank and reads Zettervig over Copenhagen over Handmade over the shape number 351 over Denmark. The pipe came with a stem that was obviously not the original. It was another one of his pipe finds on a recent pipe hunt in Vancouver. The smooth finish had a burnt orange colour over a black undercoat. The plateau on the rim top and shank end were also black. The briar had been covered with a lacquer that had gone cloudy. The finish was very dirty and there was a thick cake in the bowl. The pipe needed to be cleaned thoroughly and a new stem fit to the shank that was more of a freehand style stem. I took close up photos of the rim top and the shank end. I believe that the plateau “style” top of the rim was carved rather than natural. The shank end has a combination of carved finish and genuine plateau. The inside of the bowl has a thick cake around the bowl and some tar and oil on the top of the rim filling in the finish. Some of the original black finish was also worn off.I took photos of the pipe with the stem it had on the bowl when it had been found. It is a saddle stem made to fit flush against a rounded shank. It was not made for plateau style freehand shank ends. I took a photo of the stamping on the underside of the shank. It is very clear and readable. The stamping is clearer than the photo shows.I decided that I would look up some information on the Zettervig brand before I started the clean up on the pipe. I looked up information on two of my favourite sites. The first was Pipedia. Here is the link: https://pipedia.org/wiki/Zettervig. I quote in full:

In the 1960’s and into the early 1970’s Ole Zettervig had a shop in Copenhagen, Denmark where he was carving high quality pipes equal to Stanwell, Larsen, Anne Julie, Thurmann, Bang and others. These early pipes were marked “Copenhagen” and are very collectible. He sold his shop at some point in the 70’s and moved to Kolding and continued to produce pipes as a hobby, but the quality of briar and workmanship is said to not equal the early production. The later pipes he now marked as Kobenhaven rather than Copenhagen, and these were sold by Ole at flea markets throughout Europe.

http://www.pipephil.eu/logos/en/logo-z.html

I started my clean up on the bowl with reaming and then cleaning out the airway to the bowl and the inside of the mortise. I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife to remove the cake on the walls. I used a dowel wrapped with sandpaper to sand down the walls on the bowl. I cleaned out the airway with alcohol (99% isopropyl), pipe cleaners and cotton swabs until they were clean on the inside. I tried to wipe down the bowl with acetone to remove the shiny coat. It did not even begin to permeate the surface. I scrubbed the surface hard to try to break through the finish. It did not work. I sanded the finish with micromesh sanding pads to break the topcoat on the finish down. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit micromesh pads. I dry sanded it with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a cotton pad and acetone. That combination of sanding pads and acetone worked to break down the finish. I used a black Sharpie Pen to restain the rim top and the shank end. It was originally black and I have found over the years that the black pen matches the colour of the original stain.I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the finish and the plateau style rim and shank end with my fingertips and finished working it in with a shoe brush. The balm worked to clean, preserve and enliven the surface of the finish on the small bowl. The briar was coming alive so I took some photos of the pipe at this point. I buffed the plateau style rim top and shank end with a horsehair shoe brush to give it a shine. I went through my can of stems and found one that would work well on the freehand style Zettervig bowl. I had one was from a freehand pipe. I turned the end of the tenon down with the PIMO tenon turning tool. I did not need to remove too much material from the tenon so it did not take too long. Once I had turned it I sanded it smooth with a piece of sandpaper then tried it in the pipe for the fit and the look. It looked good but needed to be bent a little to follow the low of the bowl. I heated it with a Bic lighter until the vulcanite softened then bent it slightly to match the flow of the bowl.The stem had two dents in the top surface. There was also some heavy oxidation in the vulcanite. I cleaned the areas around the button and filled in the dents with clear super glue. When the repair cured I sanded the repairs and the oxidation with 220 grit sandpaper. I folded the paper and worked in the grooves turned areas of the stem.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each sanding pad. I put the stem back on the bowl and buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel. I lightly buffed the bowl so as not to fill in the sandblast finish. I also carefully avoided the stamping on the underside of the shank. I gave both the bowl and the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I have two more pipes to finish for him – both of them that are finds he made while pipe hunting. This is a fun bunch of pipes to work on. I look forward to moving through the rest of them. Thanks for looking. 

A Humpty-Dumpty Restoration/Reclamation of a piece of Kay Family History


Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I was in communication with Alice regarding a pipe that had belonged to her Grandfather, William Kay. She had been keeping it in a drawer for many years and she took it out to pass it on to her nephew. When she opened the case she said that the amber stem was crumbling to pieces and the case itself was also crumbling. She said that it had been kept dry and safe in a dresser drawer for years so she was sadly surprised by the condition of the pipe. It was a piece of her family’s history but it was in sad condition. She really did not know what to do with it. She wrote to see if I would even be interested in it. She wanted to pass it on and thought I might want it. When I heard about it I wanted to see it before I accepted the challenge to work on it and assess whether I could stabilize the amber and resurrect the old pipe. I was not sure but I wanted to see it. Alice graciously took some photos of the pipe and emailed them to so that I could have a look at what she saw as she looked at it. The photos below tell the story. From what I saw in her photos I was hooked. I could see the “crystallization” of the stem and the chunks of amber in the broken case. It looked salvageable from the photos. Besides that, I wanted to see what I could do with the pipe. I loved shape of the bowl and the curve of the stem. The band was green which made me wonder what was happening to make it that way. The pipe had definitely seen a lot moisture along the way. To me it was certainly worth a try to restore it and the history of the pipe alone made me want to work on it. I wrote Alice back and told her I was interested. After several emails went back and forth between, the pipe was on its way to my brother Jeff’s home in the US as it is definitely easier to ship things within the states that to ship them to Canada. I would have to wait for a bit until I would see it in person.

It did not take too long for the package to arrive at my brother’s house. When he opened the box it looked much the same as Alice had described it so nothing more happened in transit. My brother shook his head when he saw it and I think questioned my sanity yet again. LOL! We shall see if I have any semblance of sanity left once I have it in hand and see what I can do. I figure at worst I will need to craft a new stem for it and at best I may be able to make the amber one at least functional and stop the breakdown of the amber. I asked Jeff to take some photos of the pipe so I could see what he saw. He sent me the following photos and they pretty much tell the story of the pipe’s condition.Two of my daughters visited their Grandad in the States for his birthday at the end of June and brought the pipe in a baggie back to Canada with them on their return. I wrote and asked Alice to send me a photo of her grandfather and a couple of paragraphs about him to give me a sense of background on this pipe. She did a great job capturing his personality and a bit of the unique character that went with it. It helped me see a bit of the man behind this Gordon pipe and gave me even more reason to see it come back to life. Here is what she wrote about her Grandfather, William Kay.

William Ewart Kay August 21, 1880 – June 6, 1938.  His US Naturalization papers list his race as Scotch. (Not Scottish…Scotch) Born in Ontario, Canada, and ended up in Grassy Lake, Alberta somewhere around 1905.  He married Lucy Evaleen Phipps in 1909 and they had 4 children. He was a rather interesting man and not always a very nice one. About 1917 he relocated the family to Auburn, Washington and came as a railroad strike breaker. No one talked about those years but my father told me that he was known as Scabby Bill Kay until he died.  Railroad towns have no pity. The kids didn’t seem to suffer, at least. 

I have his pocket watch. It is not a very expensive piece.  According to whispered family stories, he often had a lady friend and this watch was a gift from one of them  When he came home sporting a shiny new watch he told my grandmother (not a stupid lady) that when he was walking home a crow flew over his head and dropped the watch right in front of him. Still shaking my head over that tale!  Grandmother outlived him by 26 years, happily. I think she loved every minute of not keeping his house. 

My Dad said he was an amusing man, a good carpenter and became a strike breaker because there was no work in Canada in those years. My dad met him when they were both working on a government fish hatchery project in Auburn. That’s about all I know about the man. He died 10 years before my birth and the family rarely spoke of him. Times have certainly changed. Nothing is a secret any longer. Sadly, being a family elder means I have no one to ask!

Thanks for all this. I hope it makes it in a reasonable number of pieces. I am still amazed that it disintegrated so fast and in so many strange ways. It has been in its case in a dry dresser drawer forever. — Alice

I was unfamiliar with the brand so I did a bit of hunting on the internet for information on the brand. The inside of the case Gordon Best Briar in an oval on the lid. Gordon was also stamped on the left side of the shank in an oval. I did find a Gordon pipe on Pipephil’s site but the stamping and logo were very different so I am not sure it was the same maker. I also looked on Pipedia and found a listing for Gorden Pipes – spelled differently but the information that followed the name stated that it was an early 20th century brand of Samuel Gordon and that the stamping was Gordon in a lozenge on the shank. Here is the link for that information as it does match this pipe (https://pipedia.org/wiki/British_Pipe_Brands_%26_Makers_E_-_H). There was no more information that I could find on the brand anywhere on the net. The time line fits pretty well with the look and make of the pipe I am working on.

Armed with that information and the backstory of William Kay I brought the pipe to my worktable started the rebuilding of the Humpty-Dumpty pipe. It was going to be a real challenge to put all the pieces together again. Rebuilding and stabilizing the stem was only part of the work. I was not sure that would even be possible because it really seemed to be disintegrating as I touched it. I am pretty certain that the stem is made of amber. I would know more once I tried to rebuild it and put the pieces back together. The tenon was loose in the stem and when I touched it I could see that it was not even connected.

The tenon was metal and it was rusted and deteriorating. It was stuck in the shank of the pipe. I assumed that the end in the shank was also threaded because the stem end was. I thought that it was screwed into a threaded mortise in the shank. The band was silver and the normal black tarnish was present. There was a lot of pitting and a green oxidation that came from the metal tenon and inside the case. The finish on the bowl was ruined and worn out. There was a lot of buildup and grime on the outside of the bowl that would need to be dealt with. The rim top looked like it might be the least damaged part of this old pipe because of the thick lava coat overflowing from the cake in the bowl. The airway from the shank to the bowl was clogged. This was definitely going to be a challenge. I took a photo of the parts of the pipe when I removed the stem from the tenon.I tried to turn the tenon with a pair of pliers to see if I could unscrew it from the shank. It did not take long to realize that I was not dealing with a threaded tenon at all. The tenon turned out to be a push tenon. It looked like a repair person sometime in the life of the pipe had converted it from a threaded shank and tenon to a push tenon. Their methodology was interesting to say the least. They had slipped a hard rubber tube over the worn threads of the original tenon and drilled out the threaded mortise to receive the push tenon – creative but damaging. He had lined the mortise with a paper washer to hold the tenon tight in the shank. Over the years moisture had gotten into the mortise and the paper was disintegrated and stuck on the tenon and in the shank.  The threaded tenon conversion was full of rust as the original metal tenon had deteriorated with the moisture and wicked up the stem and around the band. It was a compound mess that would need creative solutions to be dealt with.The band was loose on the shank. The glue that had held it in place had long since deteriorated. I removed the green tarnished band from the shank and laid out the pieces of the pipe at this point in the process to show what I was dealing with.I decided to try to put all of the pieces of the amber stem together again. I greased a pipe cleaner and put it in the airway to keep the glue from filling in the airway. I glued it together with super glue gel and filled in the hole in the right side with the broken chunks of amber. I filled in the gaps around the chunks with clear super glue. I painted the surface of the rest of the stem with clear super glue to stabilize the stem material. Time would tell if it would hold together or not. I let the glue cure for over four hours and when I picked it up to look it over, it fell apart. The stem broke in half and there was a large hole in the right side of the stem. I had not fixed anything at this point but only made things significantly worse. I shrugged it off and glue the two parts back together again. I left the hole to deal with later. The photos below show the state of the stem after repairing the break. It was not looking very promising. I set the stem aside to cure for three full days – it was pretty depressing.I started to formulate a plan B – a new acrylic stem in case all the efforts on this older stem were for naught. I place an order for a stem with Tim West at J.H. Lowe and it is on its way here. I am hoping it will be a suitable replacement. In the meantime, I took all the pieces of the original stem that I had in the plastic bag that it came in and tried to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I used an amber super glue gel to build up the edges of the broken part of the stem. I pressed the pieces in place in the hole to build it up and provide a base that I could fill in once the initial glue on the stem cured. I set the stem aside to cure for another couple of days. I did not want to take any chances with breaking it again.I kept looking over at it and wondering if my repairs would work in the long run. I could see that it was rough but I think it may form enough of a base for me to rebuild the stem with amber super glue once it cures. We shall see. I turned my attention to the filthy bowl. I had already removed the silver band from the shank as it was loose anyway. I used a sharp pen knife to scrape away the paper gasket that lined the walls of the shank. It fell apart as the knife cut it. I reamed the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife and scraped the rim top and inner bevel with the edge of the knife. I sanded the bowl with a piece of sandpaper wrapped around a dowel. I cleaned out the interior of the mortise, shank and airway to bowl. The airway was plugged and I could not blow any air through it from either the shank end or the bowl. I pushed a straightened paper clip through the airway to open it up again. I used alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners – smooth and bristle – to clean out the tars, oils and build up that had collected over the years. It was as much a mess on the inside as the outside.I wiped off the exterior of the bowl and shank with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the remnants of the old varnish finish and the grime that had been ground into the briar. At this point the pipe bowl was beginning to look pretty good. There was some nice grain on the bowl. Once I had the surface clean and free of the old finish and the debris of time it was ready for the next step in the process. I worked Before & After Restoration Balm deep into the briar on the smooth finish to clean, enliven and protect it. I wiped it off with a soft cloth. I buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to polish it. It really began to have a deep shine in the briar. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. The grain on the bowl is really beginning to stand out and will only do so more as the pipe is waxed. The stem was still quite a mess. Once the first coats of glue cured I used some thick amber super glue to fill in the larger holes in the right side of the stem and build up around the inserted pieces of the original stem. I needed to fill in some of the open space to stop the airflow through the repair. Once the amber glue had cured I filled in the small areas around the repairs with clear super glue. I set the stem aside and let the glue cure.The original tenon was a mess – it really was a hard rubber tube forced over a threaded metal tenon that was rusting and crumbling as well. The shank had been drilled out to remove the threads in the mortise so once again I am guessing that this was some repair person’s idea of creating a push stem. I had removed it earlier and put it aside. I created a new tenon for the stem. It was a threaded Delrin tenon – in this case the threaded portion on a Jobey system tenon was the perfect size for this stem. I would try fitting it once the glue had cured enough to not damage the stem further.  I reduced the side of the hip at the top of the tenon to match the diameter of the mortise using files and sand paper. I set the tenon aside and called it a night.

In the morning I checked the stem and found that the glue had hardened on the stem so I sanded the repaired areas with 180 grit sandpaper to smooth out the surface of the repairs and blend them into the rest of the stem. Then I tried to fit the mortise to the stem and found that my measurements were correct and it fit perfectly. I carefully turned it into the stem and took the following photos. The stem was looking pretty decent at this point and the patch seemed to be hard and stable.I decided to be daring at this point and pushed the stem into the mortise of the shank and took some photos of the pipe at this point. Even though there was still a lot of sanding to do on the stem to smooth and polish it, I was making progress and I was excited to see what it looked like. I wanted to send the two photos to Alice so she could see the salvage job on Humpty. At this point the stem material is stabilized and I could see that the stem would be usable. Now I needed to see if I could make it look even better.I smoothed out the final touches on the repair with 220 grit sandpaper to blend the repairs into the surface of the amber. I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil to give life back to the amber. I put the stem on the shank and set the pipe aside to work on the broken and damaged case. I glued the parts together with all-purpose white glue. I pressed them together until the glue set enough to let the parts hold when I laid the case down. I polished the stem with a polishing cloth. I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the buffing wheel. I carefully avoided the stamping on the left side of the shank so as not to damage it. I gave the bowl multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed the pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed the bowl and stem individually it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is great to be able to hold William Kay’s pipe in my hand as a solid and smokeable whole. I can’t wait for Alice to read this blog and see the finished pipe. I look forward to hearing from her. This was a challenging and a fun project to work on. Thanks for taking time to give it a read.

A Tale of Three Churchwardens


Blog by Dal Stanton

The first of the 3 was true born, but of hobbit stature.  He dreamed of walking in the world of men and of wizards seeing eye to eye but anxious to serve.  The second was bound to the first but he held no claim to royal lineage. He stood proud in the best sense of the word and cherished his Green Lands heritage and history.  The third of the 3, was free and bound to no man.  He was born into humbler circumstances but found favor in the Maker’s eye and the Maker dubbed him The Wise a valuable gift to any man.  All 3 strong, bound together in one tale, bring hope to the Daughters of men. 

I am sure that if J.R.R. Tolkien were to write this blog about the restoration and creation of 3 Churchwardens, he might begin the tale something like this.  Every pipe man and pipe women, if they do not have a Churchwarden in their collections, are hoping one day to find one – each looking for that special bond.  Why?  Simply stated, Churchwardens are cool.  I have a Churchwarden that I’ve named, Gandalf – there are probably many Churchwardens out there bearing that name.  Why?  Simply stated, Gandalf the Wizard – first The Grey then The White – is cool.  He smoked a Churchwarden like no one else, packed with ‘Old Toby’ and who doesn’t want to be like Gandalf?

There’s A LOT of information on the internet easily obtained by a simple search of ‘Churchwarden’ and I don’t want to repeat what’s easily found.  The short of it is this – ‘Churchwarden’ is an old shape as far as pipes go.  Of course, they were prevalent throughout Middle Earth.  As the story goes, there were men back in the days when they didn’t lock churches at night, who were employed as ‘wardens’ of the church – whose responsibility was to guard the premises.  To be faithful to their charge, they were not allowed to leave the walls of the church.  That created an unusual dilemma between guarding the holy confines and the desire to enjoy one’s evening smoke.  The moral dilemma was creatively solved by a stem.  The length of the stem enabled the church wardens to tend to their evening bowls as they stood vigilantly inside the church walls while the stems extended through the windows…so the story goes (see Pipedia’s article).

Another very interesting factoid about Churchwardens comes from Bill Burney’s Pipedia description of the Churchwarden that it is unique among all pipes:

I want to include one other interesting link for those of you who are Middle Earth and Churchwarden enthusiast.  The question has always been asked by discerning folk, while Gandalf was smoking his Warden, or Bilbo, Merry and Pippen were puffing on theirs, what exactly was packed in their bowls??  Of course, we all know that the bowls had ‘Old Toby’ packed in them – or simply, ‘Pipeweed’.  This link goes to a fun site that explores the minutia of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth including the story of pipe smoking and the mystery of what exactly inhabited the bowls of Middle Earth!  Enjoy!

The first of the 3 was true born, but of hobbit stature.  He dreamed of walking in the world of men and of wizards seeing eye to eye but anxious to serve.

My ‘Tolkienesque’ opening, like Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’, holds some truth in the telling.  The ‘Tale of the Three Churchwardens’ started when I received an email from Toby – yes, I’m not making this up!  Gandalf smoked ‘Old Toby’ and a younger Toby from Germany wrote me about commissioning the “Imperial Churchwarden” (the ‘true born’ Churchwarden with royalty) as a birthday gift for a friend which he discovered in my website’s section, For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only.  We came to an accord and I put the Imperial Churchwarden from France in the queue to be restored in time for his friend’s birthday celebration. Later, when I found the Imperial in the “Help Me!” Basket, I was a little concerned.  The stem was shorter than I had originally thought – it was more of ‘Hobbit stature’ – a miniature Warden.  The stem was 5 ¾ inches beyond the shank or the total length of the pipe was about 8 ¾ inches or 22 cm – not really the coveted ‘Gandalf’ size.  I wrote to Toby with a proposal of adding some stature to the Imperial with a longer Churchwarden stem I had on hand – it would be more of a ‘Gandalf statured’ Churchwarden as a result.  I sent this picture with the proposed stem giving a total length of 11 inches or 28 ½ cm.  My Gandalf was on top for comparison.  Toby liked the idea and said that his friend was a huge ‘Lord of the Rings’ fan and that an extra 5 cms was a good investment for his friend to have a ‘Gandalf’ pipe.  

The second was bound to the first but he held no claim to royal lineage.  He stood proud in the best sense of the word and cherished his Green Lands heritage and history.

Then Toby asked if I might have another long warden stem in my stores – he thought it might be good for him to add a Churchwarden to his collection – perhaps that both he and his friend could blow smoke rings into the air in proper wizard fashion on his friend’s day of celebration!  I ordered 3 more 8.5” Churchwarden stems from Tim West at http://www.jhlowe.com and they arrived in Bulgaria from the US with a returning colleague.  At this point I moved from restoring a Churchwarden (true born) to creating a Churchwarden with re-purposed bowls.  I went through my stores to find potential bowls to be wedded to a Warden stem and transformed to a Churchwarden (thank you Bill Burney!).  I sent two options next to the Imperial – a Dublin and a Rhodesian.  Toby chose the Dublin with the canted bowl which to him was more ‘Gandalf-like’.  And so, the Dublin will mast the Churchwarden stem – representing a strong and resilient people proud of their ‘Green’ heritage and history.

The third of the 3, was free and bound to no man.  He was born into humbler circumstances but found favor in the Maker’s eye and the Maker dubbed him ‘The Wise’ a valuable gift to any man.                     

All 3 strong, bound together in one tale, bring hope to the Daughters of men.

With two Churchwardens bound to Toby – one for his friend and one for himself, I was thinking, while I’m working on restoring and creating these Churchwardens, why not fashion another to put in The Pipe Steward Store for another steward to add to their collection.  I found a small bowl that I really liked – a Yello Bole ‘Air-control’ Imported Briar.  I looked at the Air-Control stem mechanism and my thought was that no one will ever want this Yelo Bole as he is now attached to his ‘high-tech’ stem, but I really liked the Apple shaped bowl.  I think he’ll look great mounted on a long-bent stem – a third Churchwarden, a wise choice for anyone wanting to add a Churchwarden to his collection!  All three Churchwardens will benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria – women and girls, the ‘Daughters of men’ who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.I want to thank Charles Lemon of https://dadspipes.com  up front for his input that led me to add two new tools to my tool box and expanding my ‘restorative reach’ with pipes.  The first is a PIMO Tenon Turning Tool that I ordered at Vermont Freehand after seeing the tool on Charles’ Worktable and Man Cave blog.  Charles’ later restoration, Re-Stemming a Butz-Choquin Marigny Deluxe Hand-Made Calabash was very helpful providing a step by step description of its use in replacing a tenon and the use of the tool.  The other wonderful tool that I coveted reading the same ‘Re-Stemming’ blog was the electronic caliper which Charles uses hand in hand with his many stem repairs.  I hadn’t seen an electronic caliper in Bulgaria, but then, I had never looked for one either!  Joy of joys, I found a German made electronic caliper in the local ‘Bricolage’ – I was a happy camper!  My new toys – that is, tools 😊 pictured next. As I approach the restoration and creation of the 3 Churchwardens, I will try to work in the reverse – starting with the ‘Free Born’ Yello Bole, then the ‘Green Land’ Dublin and finally, the ‘True Born’ French made Imperial.  Why this order?  As I get used to my new tools, I would rather start with the ‘non-commissioned’ pipe first to hone in on the techniques, working toward the most important Churchwarden, the Imperial, destined to be a gift.  To experiment and practice, I have already turned one stem with the PIMO tenon turning tool – a French Jeantet Jumbo which came to me without a matching stem and has been waiting patiently.  Without description, this is what I did last night while watching the World Cup match between Sweden and Mexico (my wife rooted for Mexico where she grew up!).  Sweden prevailed.  The Jeantet Jumbo will be completed sometime in the future – he’s a ‘big boy’ pipe! Turning now to cleaning the stummels of the Churchwardens, I start first by reaming each with the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  Each stummel uses only the smallest of the 4 blade heads available.  I then fine tuning each with the Savinelli Fitsall tool, followed by sanding the chambers with 240 grade paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  Finally, each is cleaned with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  After clearing the light to moderate cake in each bowl getting down to the briar for a fresh start, the chambers look good in each – no problems I can see. Turning now to the external surface I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil soap and cotton pads to scrub each.  The Dublin (center above) has the most lava over the rim, while the other two, not as much.  In addition to cotton pads, I utilize a brass wire brush for the rims and use a knife blade carefully to scrape the Dublin rim.  The Dublin and the Imperial will both need some sanding on the rim to clean them up.  All 3 stummels’ finishes reveal that they are thin and worn.  Murphy’s took much of the finish off but not all with the Yello Bole and Imperial bowls.  The Dublin’s finish is gone.  During the cleaning, I discover that I missed the remains of a broken off tenon in the mortise of the Dublin.  I keep screws of different sizes on hand for just these occasions.  Using a small diameter screw, I screw into the airway hole of the tenon just enough to grab some vulcanite and gently pull out.  I don’t want to insert it too far into the broken tenon to not expand it and crack the shank.  As hoped, a little pressure and thankfully, the tenon comes loose. With the mortise cleared in the Dublin, I proceed to clean the internals of all 3.  I use pipe cleaners and cotton buds dipped in isopropyl 95% to do the dirty work.  Here is a truism: Just because you’re cleaning a smaller stummel doesn’t mean it’s a smaller mess!  Each stummel required boocoos of cotton buds, pipe cleaners – I also scrape the sides with a sharp dental probe as well as hand-turning drill bits down the mortises to excavate the tars and oils.  The pictures show the finish line of sorts – later, before I turn out the lights, I’ll give each a kosher salt/alcohol soak through the night to provide more stealth cleaning.To remove the old finish from the stummels I wipe them down with isopropyl 95% and cotton pads.  The alcohol fully removes the old tired finish off the Imperial and the Dublin, but the Yello Bole’s old finish is persistent.  The first picture below reveals the sheen left on the Yello Bole but the others are dull.  To deal with the ‘Candie Apple’ finish that remains on the Yello Bole stummel I use acetone on a cotton pad.  This does the trick and now we’re down to the briar on all the stummels.With the stummels clean inside and out, the next step is fashioning the Churchwarden stems from the precast stems I acquired for the job.  I start with the Yello Bole by making an outside measurement of the original stem’s tenon which, of course, fits perfectly.  The measurement with the electronic caliper is 6.83mm.  From Charles Lemon’s blog that I noted above, Re-Stemming a Butz-Choquin Marigny Deluxe Hand-Made Calabash, Charles recommended a conservative approach to using the PIMO tenon turning tool which I employed on my first run with the Jeantet Jumbo, to first do a test cut of the tenon at approximately 40mm more than the target measurement.  This allows a more conservative sanding of the tenon to gradually bring it down to a good fit – not too snug and not too loose.  The Pimo tool comes with a drill bit to pre-drill the tenon airway on the precast stem to serve as a guide for the guide pin on the tool.  Adding my margin of error of 40mm to 6.83mm target size leaves me a practice cut of about 7.23mm to aim at for the conservative approach.  The pictures move through the steps. The tenon turning tool is in the drill shock and when powered rotates at high speed. With the cast stem’s airway guided by the guide pin, I push the stem steadily against the revolving blade of the tool and it peels away the vulcanite.  The blade peels the vulcanite in spaghetti-type curls.  My first practice cut is measured, and it is 8.45.  Another 1.20 mm can come off.  With the enclosed allen wrench, I adjust the Pimo tool to remove more vulcanite and the next measurement is 7.34mm.  That is a .51mm difference and places me in the conservative sanding zone.  Now, I complete the cut of the entire tenon – all the way to the face of the stem.  I haven’t figured out how to minimize the vulcanite shavings that spew out everywhere!  I note that the original stem’s tenon is shorter.  I use a sanding drum on the Dremel and take off the excess. The cut looks good and now it’s time to take file and sanding papers to gradually bring the tenon to size. Now, as I watch several episodes of Grimm which I discovered on Netflix here in Bulgaria, I gradually sand the tenon to a snug but not too tight fit.  I use coarse 120 grade paper to start – always sanding around the tenon to maintain proper round.  Then, using a flat needle file and 240 grit paper, I fine tune the tenon sanding – again, maintaining proper round by sanding around the tenon evenly.  I must admit, when the tenon gets down to the target size – when it starts to marginally slide into the mortise, my stress level increases!  I know how easily one can crack a shank by rushing the tenon’s entry into the mortise.  It takes ‘100s’ of sanding cycles followed by testing the fit (carefully!) before the tenon safely and fully engages and finds a new home!  Success!The tenon is snug and secure, and now I take some pictures to show the ridges that need to be removed and tapered through the shank and stem.  Also, the precast stem has casting ridges down the length on both sides and the button is in very rough form.  The entire Churchwarden stem needs to be sanded, smoothed and shaped along with the shank/stem transition.One picture to show the growth in stature this Yello Bole stummel now enjoys before retiring the old stem to the stem bucket.Several episodes of Grimm later, I’m satisfied with the rough sanding and shaping of the stem.  I show the full length and then some closeups of the shank/stem transition and the button shaping.  I like what I see. The next step is to introduce a gentle bend to the stem.  This will aid the future steward of this ‘Free Born’ to know which way the stem is properly positioned – there is an up and down after the custom sanding and fit – there is no standard stem fit – echoing the words of Charles Lemon’s blog!  To give me an idea of where and how much the bend should be, I used my Gandalf as a template on a piece of paper.  I also draw an outline of the original, smaller Imperial stem for comparison.  I mark the stem at the point that Gandalf’s stem’s bend began.  Bends are very subjective, but this gives me an idea what to shoot for.  After I insert pipe cleaners in both ends of the stem to guard the airway integrity during the bending, I heat the target area of the stem with a hot air gun and bend it when it becomes supple.  I take the bend to the faucet with cool tap water to set the curve.  At the start, I found that I was bending too much.  Thankfully, vulcanite is very forgiving – to correct the bend all I do is re-heat the stem and it straightens on its own.  After a few tries, I find a bend I’m happy with – a compromise between Gandalf’s slightly longer stem and the shorter, original Imperial. I put the Yello Bole ‘Free Born’ aside and now turn to the Dublin.   The following pictures are lacking my standard background working mat – it needed to be cleaned!  I start by doing an inside measurement of the mortise – 7.19mm.  That is the target width of the tenon that is shaped.  I use the drill bit provided and drill the airway to receive the PIMO guide pin.  I then bring the blade down to just touching the tenon and cut a test like before and measure – 8.15mm.  That leaves .96mm to the target size.  I make a quarter turn of the wrench, closing the blade that much and take another cut – 7.46.  The quarter turn took .69mm off the tenon.  I now have .27 mm of ‘fat’ left on the tenon.  Again, the pictures show the steps. Now, well within the conservative sanding zone, I use a flat needle file and 240 grit paper and sand the tenon down to fit with appropriate snugness.  I then sand down the stem and button as before with the Yello Bole.  I’m aiming for a fluid transition from shank to stem.  The Dublin shapes up nicely!I use the same template to give the Dublin’s new fitted stem a gentle bend over the hot air gun. Now to the Imperial.  The same methodology is employed as with the former 2.  I fast track describing the process with each picture.I drill the airway to guide the Pimo guide pin.The mortise is measured for the target tenon size – 7.56mm.With the PIMO tool I cut a ‘fat’ initial tenon that measures about 40mm larger than the target – conservative sanding zone. I measure the length of the original Imperial stem tenon and shorten the precast Churchwarden tenon to match using the flat needle file as a saw.After sanding the tenon down to a snug fit, I’m left with filing and sanding the ridge and tapering the warden stem.  I cover the Imperial’s nomenclature with masking tape to protect it from the shank sanding.After some filing with a flat needle file and sanding with 240 grit paper, the transition from the shank to the Warden stem is shaped and the button is shaped from the rough precast stem. As with the other two, I heated the Warden stem with a hot gun and when it became supple I give it a slight, gentle flowing bend and seal the bend under cool tap water.The 3 are looking good and the transformation is taking shape!I then take each of the Warden stems through a wet sanding with 600 grit paper and then used 0000 grade steel wool to continue the sanding but also buffing up the fresh vulcanite.  To hydrate each of the 3 Wardens I wipe the stems and stummels with light paraffin oil (mineral oil in Bulgaria), which serves to give me a sneak peak at the finished Churchwarden pipes.  I like what I see!With my day coming to a close, I utilize the night by allowing the stummels to clean further by using a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I fashion cotton ‘wicks’ from cotton balls and insert them down the mortises into the airways.  They act to draw the additional tars and oils out of the briar.  I then fill each bowl with kosher salt which leaves no aftertaste as iodized salt does.  I then fill the bowls with isopropyl 95% until the alcohol surfaces over the salt.  I top each stummel off in a few minutes and I turn out the lights.The next morning, I wasn’t disappointed.  The salt in each bowl had darkened and each of the wicks had discolored indicating further extraction of the tars and oils.  The salt went into the waste basket and I cleared the excess salt by wiping the bowls with paper towel and blowing with some force through the mortises.  I also follow with pipe cleaners and cotton buds to make sure all was clean.  Only the Dublin resisted further but soon pipe cleaners and cotton buds were coming out clean.  Stummels are cleaned and ready for their future stewards!  The picture shows the final carnage.Now, turning from the labor-intensive stem work, I look at the stummels.  Starting with the ‘Free Born’ Yello Bole that drew my attention.  The small Apple shape fits well the classic Churchwarden motif.  The grain is active with lateral grain expressing in bird’s eye perspective on the sides.  There are some fills in the stummel – one larger one on the right side of the stummel then a few pocket fills.  The fills all seem solid, but I will keep my eye on them as I sand. The rim is darkened from tobacco lighting and the inner edge of the rim is scorched.  I decide to give the rim a very light topping using 600 grade paper – more of a clean up to reestablish crisp lines and to remove the charring.  I use a kitchen chopping board and put the 600 paper on it for the topping.  It doesn’t take much. To address the normal nicks and dents on the stummel I use micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and wet sand the stummel.  After the wet sanding I again look at the old fills that caught my attention before to see if they softened.  They remain solid, but I can see very small pockets that might benefit from repair.  I do not dig out the fills but simply painted the fills with a very thin layer of thin CA glue with a tooth pick – like the repair to miniscule air pockets that emerge with a CA glue/charcoal patch on vulcanite stems.  The painting is thin, so it cures very quickly, and I focus sand the spots again starting with the 1500 micromesh pad to the present was sufficient.  There is no impact on the surrounding briar.  I complete the micromesh cycles by dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I keep the Warden stem mounted on the stummel to guard against shouldering the shank face – keeping a nice seamless transition from shank to Warden stem.Here I picture the right side of the stummel to show the results of the ‘paint patching’ the larger fill and a few on the shank.  It blended well. Now, the Dublin is next in line.  This Dublin has ‘Selected Briar’ stamped on the left side of the shank.  It has nice looking briar, but the finish has lost its luster – it’s dull, tired and bored.  The rim is dark and has several dings on the edge.  There is one noticeable fill on the right front of the Dublin stummel.  The canted bowl of a Dublin has always attracted me and when Toby chose the Dublin to mast the Warden stem, I agreed it was a good choice – it will be an impressive looking Churchwarden.  I take a few pictures to get a closer look. I start by taking the Dublin to the topping board using 240 grit paper.  Removing the tired finish and re-establishing the lines of the rim will go a long way in sharpening this stummel.  After turning the inverted stummel on the 240 paper a few revolutions, I switch too 600 grade paper and smooth out the scratches of the 240.  Then, using 120 grit paper I cut an internal bevel on the rim followed by 240 and 600 grade papers.  I also cut a very small bevel on the external edge of the rim with the 240 and 600 papers.  I create the bevels to soften the look of the stummel and to me, it’s a classy touch.Next, I take the stummel through the full micromesh pad cycle by wet sanding with 1500 to 2400, followed by dry sanding using pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  The Dublin’s attitude is shaping up nicely! Turning now to the ‘True Born’ Churchwarden, the nomenclature stamped on the left side of the shank is a cursive, ‘Imperial’ over ‘CHURCHWARDEN’ in full block letters.  ‘Algerian Briar’ is stamped on the right.  The COM is France, stamped in very small block letters on the lower shank along the shank face.  These pictures show what I see. It did not take long to match the unique ‘Imperial’ nomenclature found in Pipedia’s very short article about the Imperial Tobacco Co. referencing Lopes:

From Pipes, Artisans and Trademarks, by Jose Manuel Lopés’

The Imerial Tobacco Co. (Imperial Tobacco Ltd.) was founded in 1901 through the merger of several British tobacco companies. In 1902 it went into partnership with the American Tobacco Company to found the British American Tobacco Company.

Brands involved: Comoy’sBewlayNordingOgden’sSalmon & Gluckstein, and Steel’s

This example was provided by the courtesy Doug Valitchka to let me know that I had locked into the right company.Pipedia’s article on Imperial Brands goes into more of the history of the multitude of acquisitions that happened in the early 1900s to maintain competitive edge.  Today, Imperial Brands is an international consortium primarily involved in cigarette sales and is based in the UK.  I found only one reference in the article to a French-based connection referencing the closure of a factory in Nantes, France, in 2016.  The company website, http://www.imperialbrandsplc.com contains an extensive history of the company, but I found no references to pipe productions in France!  In Pipedia and in Pipephil – Imperial, references to Imperial, the country of manufacturing is consistently the UK and no mention of France.  So, the French connection to this True Born will remain shrouded in mystery!

The Imperial stummel has a dulled finish as the Dublin but promises a very nice briar grain beneath.  The bowl and rim have normal wear nicks and dents.  I also detect residue shininess of old finish that didn’t come off when I cleaned with Murphy’s Oil Soap. I quickly dispatch this using a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.Inspecting the surface I find on the left side of the shank, near the ‘Imperial’ stamping, a chip that needs patching. I mix a small batch of CA glue and briar dust to patch the chip – this will blend well after sanded down.  I put a small mound of briar dust on an index card and place next to it a drop of regular CA glue.  I mix a small bit of the briar dust into the glue and when I find the resulting putty about the consistency of molasses, I apply it to the chip and put the stummel aside to cure. While the patch is curing, the large job of continuing the sanding of the Churchwarden stems jumps to the fore.  I decide to do all 3 Wardens together by first wet sanding using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400.  I follow by dry sanding using pads 3200 to 4000 and then 6000 to 12000.  After each set of three pads, I apply Obsidian Oil to each stem to vitalize the vulcanite.  There’s a LOT of vulcanite real estate to sand with a Churchwarden stem!  It’s also not easy taking pictures of the long Warden stems. Turning again to the bowls, and the Imperial’s cured patch of CA glue and briar dust, I carefully file the mound/excess down toward the briar surface.  I’m careful to stay on the excess patch material so not to damage the nearby briar and nomenclature.  I then switch to 240 paper, rolled tightly and then 600.  The patch looks great. As I take a closer look at the Imperial stummel, the rim is blackened on the internal edge.  I start by giving the bowl a very light topping with 600 grade sanding paper to clean it and to reestablish lines.  I then bevel the internal rim edge enough to clean it up as well as giving the external rim edge a bevel to soften the rim and to ‘class it up’ a bit. I like how it’s shaping up. With the rim restoration complete at this level, I use micromesh pads 1500 to 2400 and wet sand the entire stummel.  I follow with dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and finish with 6000 to 12000. I have noticed on the shank a lightened area that was a result of the stem/shank fitting process where more sanding was necessary.  To darken and blend this area, I use an oak Furniture stain stick to do the job and it looks good.  I take a picture.Now, to deepen and enrich the briar of the French made Imperial Churchwarden, I apply Before and After Restoration Balm to the briar surface.  I put some on my fingers and work it into the surface.  The Balm does an amazing job bringing out the richness and the luster of the briar grain that is already beautiful.  After about 20 minutes, I wipe the Balm off the stummel with a clean cotton cloth.  It buffs up nicely.  I take a picture of the stummel with the Balm on it.Next in line is the Dublin bowl.  As with the French Imperial, I take the Dublin through the full 9 micromesh pads, 1500 to 12000.  I show the progress after each set of three pads – the first three wet sanding, the last 6, dry. As with the Imperial, I apply Before and After Restoration Balm to the Dublin bowl.  I put some Balm on my fingers and work it into the briar.  The Balm starts with the texture of light oil then as I rub it into the briar, is thickens into the texture of a thicker wax.  After I work it in I set the stummel aside to absorb the Balm.  After a time, I wipe off the Balm using a cotton cloth – it buffs up as I wipe the stummel.The final stummel is the Free Born Yello Bole.  Since the stummel has already gone through the full micromesh pad sanding process, it is ready to receive the Before and After Restoration Balm to deepen and enrich the nicely emerging briar grain.  As with the others, I apply the Balm with my fingers and after setting is aside for about 20 minutes, I wipe/buff off the Balm.  I take a picture of the Balm on the stummel and afterwards. At this point, using the Dremel mounted with dedicated cotton cloth buffing wheels set at the slowest speed, each of the three bowls I apply Blue Diamond compound and White Diamond compound is applied to the stems.  After the application of the compounds, I buff each Churchwarden with a felt cloth to remove the compound dust before applying wax.  I then mount another cotton cloth wheel on to the Dremel, increase the speed to about 40% full power and apply carnauba wax to stems and stummels.  After applying a few coats of wax, I give each Churchwarden a rigorous hand buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine.

The Tale of the Three Churchwardens is now beginning.  I am pleased with the results.  Each bowl responded well displaying a myriad of grains and patterns.  Each now displays that classic, long, graceful, wise aura of the Churchwarden genre.  It is true, only one of the Churchwardens started has a Churchwarden – the True Born.  He is now no longer of Hobbit stature and will walk with men and wizards.  The other two re-purposed bowls look great – I’m pleased.  Tobias of Germany commissioned the French made Imperial Churchwarden and the Dublin.  He will have the first opportunity to secure these Churchwardens for his friend’s birthday present and for his own collection in The Pipe Steward Store.  As ‘fate’ would have it, the third Churchwarden bound to no man, was claimed also by a person also living in Germany!  A colleague was visiting Bulgaria and saw the 3 Churchwardens on my worktable.  Thankfully, I was able to finish ‘The Wise’ to return with his new steward to Germany.  I declare that Germany receives the Middle Earth Award!  Each of these Churchwardens benefits the Daughters of Bulgaria – a noble cause of helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thank you for joining me in the telling of the Tale of Three Churchwardens!

The first True Born Imperial Churchwarden of France The second was bound to the first, the proud Dublin Green Land Churchwarden The Third ‘Free Born’ Churchwarden

Adding some length to a Chimera Blowfish


Blog by Steve Laug

I received a call from a fellow who lives nearby my house about working on some pipes for him. He happened to be packing them up to send to the US for repairs when he stumbled on the rebornpipes.com website. He stopped by with a box of pipes that he wanted to know if I could work on for him. Two were pretty straight forward – 1910 Calabash that needed a cleanup and a freehand that belonged to his dad that he wanted cleaned up so that he could send it back to him. The freehand was simple – buffing, touching up stain, cleaning the bowl and shank and removing tooth chatter and oxidation from the stem. I finished that one first and then moved on to this calabash. I have written about the calabash on a previous blog that can be found at the following link: (https://rebornpipes.com/2018/07/01/a-simple-restoration-of-a-1910-gourd-calabash/). The third pipe that he wanted me to work on was a different proposition – it was a Blowfish shaped pipe with the name Chimera etched on the underside of the shank. He did not like the stem and the way it looked on the shank. He was wondering if I could add some length to the shank and fit a different looking stem on it that better fit the shape and look of the pipe. I took photos of the pipe before I started working on it. I took a close up photo of the stamping on the shank. It is a brand that I don’t know much about. It is not listed on Pipedia or Pipephils site. I wrote an email to the owner to see what he could tell me about the pipe. He wrote back as follows:

The blowfish “Vincent” was made by Tedd Weitzman in Atlanta around 2010. He started making pipes out of the shop of a local amateur maker and this was his first sellable one… “Chimera” would have been his marque, but he hadn’t made a stamp yet, but as far as I know he never made another.The pipe had an interesting shape and worked with the grain very well. It seemed to have a clean and open draw. I took a few photos of the bowl from various angles to show the grain. Some of you may note that the shank end is not square and require that the saddle of the stem be cut at an angle. This will need to be addressed when I add the shank extension. I had an interesting faux horn (Lucite) shank extension here that I thought make an interesting contrast with the shape of the bowl. I also had a four sided, square vulcanite tapered stem that I thought would look good with the pipe. I laid out the pieces and took a photo of the proposed look of the pipe. I sent the photos to the owner and his response was to go with what I thought would look good. I was good to go on this one.I took the pipe apart and worked on the shank extension. I glued a threaded Delrin tenon in the shank end of the stem to join it to the shank of the pipe. The taper on the shank extension was not quite enough to make a smooth transition with the briar shank. I took it down with a Dremel and sanding drum and got it close. The rest of the fitting would have to be done by hand with files and sandpaper. The tenon would need to be cleaned up a bit but it was going to work nicely. I put the stem back together with the extension and took some photos. I put the stem and shank extension in place on the bowl and took some photos. You can see that the transition is getting close. I think the faux horn shank extension and new stem are going to look really good. It is        quite unique looking as a whole. I like the longer shank and stem with the large blowfish shaped bowl. Once I had the transition sanded smooth with 220 grit sandpaper I polished it and the extension with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped the extension down after each pad with a damp cloth. Before I polished it with the 6000-12000 grit pads I stained the connection with an oak coloured stain pen to match the colour of the rest of the bowl. I finished by polishing the junction and the extension with the last three grits (6000-12000) of micromesh pads. I really like the look of the longer shank. The faux horn extension looks good with the rest of the pipe. I worked Before & After Restoration Balm deep into the briar on the smooth finish to clean, enliven and protect it. I wiped it off with a soft cloth. I buffed the bowl with a cotton cloth to polish it. It really began to have a deep shine in the briar. I took some photos of the bowl at this point to mark the progress in the restoration. The grain on the bowl is really beginning to stand out and will only do so more as the pipe is waxed. I set the bowl aside and began to work on the stem that I had chosen. It was an interesting four sided taper stem with a flare at the bottom where it joined the shank. The tenon was rough so it would need to be worked on. I funneled the airway in the stem to give it a good open flow. I sanded out the tooth chatter on the top and underside near the button. I sanded out the scratches in the tenon and the underside of the disk between the tenon and the stem. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to do the shaping and smoothing work on the stem.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down after each pad with Obsidian Oil  and rubbed it into the surface. To finish the polishing I used Before & After Pipe Polish – both Fine and Extra Fine polishes. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and hand buffed it to a shine. This Chimera Blowfish has some really beautiful grain all around the bowl and shank. The grain really is quite stunning. The asymmetrical nature of the bowl and shank give it a really unique look. I can see why the original stem was a hard fit. The shank extension that has the look of faux horn looks really good in contrast between the briar and the stem. The panelled vulcanite stem is high quality and shined up well. I buffed the bowl and the stem with Blue Diamond polish to raise the shine on the briar and the vulcanite. I was careful to not buff the stamping and damage it. I gave the bowl and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the entire pipe with a clean buffing pad to raise the shine. I hand buffed it with a microfiber cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions of the pipe are: Length: 6 1/2 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside Diameter: 1 3/4 inches, Diameter of the chamber: 3/4 inch. This blowfish feels great in the hand and its light weight give it the potential of being a clencher. I have one more repair to do for this pipeman and I will give him a call soon and I know that he is looking forward smoking these pipes. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me.