Tag Archives: waxing

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. 

Advertisements

Finishing up a Stanwell de Luxe Regd No. 969-48 Shape 482 for Paresh


Blog by Steve Laug

Not long ago I was speaking with Paresh and Abha on Facetime and they showed me a Stanwell de Luxe 482 that they had been working on. It was cleaned and ready for restoration. Paresh had filled in the multitude of nicks and dents in the briar with super glue and briar dust. He was not happy with the freckled appearance of the briar once he had finished his repairs. The super glue was very runny and had gone all over the bowl leaving darkened patches where ever it ran all around the bowl. Kind of a mess. There were also some fine pin hole nicks in the shank that were around the stamping. 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 Stanwell over Regd. No. 969-48 over de Luxe. ON the right side it was stamped Fine Briar over the shape number 482. Working on this pipe was truly not a bad deal for me as it was completely cleaned up by Abha and the stem was cleaned and partially finished as well. It would be interesting to see what I could do with it. When the pipe arrived this is what it looked like. I took some close up photos of the rim top and the bowl from various angles to show the freckled appearance that Paresh was speaking about. I carefully wiped the bowl down with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the excess glue that had run and also the stain that remains in the briar without damaging the repairs. The repair spots begin to show clearly. There are still spots on the shank that need to be dealt with. I sanded the surface of the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the repairs and remove the marks from the runny glue. I polished the briar with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-4000 grit pads. I wiped it down after each pad with a damp cloth. I also used the tip of a dental pick to fill in the many tiny sandpits in the sides of the shank. Once the glue cured I sanded them smooth with the tip of a sanding stick and folded sandpaper. Once the fills were blended into the surface of the shank I polish the shank portion again with the micromesh sanding pads. I stained the bowl with Fiebing’s Tan Aniline stain. The stain is a brownish red colour and should help to hide the many repairs to the bowl.Once the stain had dried to touch I wiped the bowl down with a cotton pad and alcohol. I wanted the stain to be transparent and allow the grain to shine through but still be opaque enough to hide the repairs that both Paresh and I had done. I rubbed down the briar with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar with my fingertips to clean, enliven and protect it. I let the balm sit for a little 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. There were still some grooves near the button that needed to be dealt with before I would be happy with the stem. I sanded the grooves out with 220 grit sandpaper until they were smooth.I polished the stem with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit sanding pads and dry sanded with 3200-12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem down with Obsidian Oil after each sanding pad. 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 rich reds of the tan stain work well to blend in the majority of the fills in the briar. The pin hole nicks in the finish have almost all been repaired and blended in with the stain coat. The grain really stands on the finished bowl and shank. The polished black vulcanite stem works together with the beautiful grain in the briar to give the pipe a rich look. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. The dimensions are Length: 6 inches, Height: 2 inches, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. The pipe is ready to head back to Paresh in India once I have finished a few more projects for him. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this beautiful little Stanwell.  There were two larger factory fills in the bowl that were rock hard and not workable. I could not pick them out or get the stain to permeate the putty. They are visible in the next two photos. Ah well they will remain in the finished pipe.

The Vintage Notoriety of Tom Howard and his Jumbo Squat Rustified Tomato


Blog by Dal Stanton

I’ve never restored a pipe where the person who made it had more notoriety than the pipe name itself.  The Tom Howard Jumbo Squat Rustified Tomato came to me along with several others from a good friend I worked with in Ukraine several years ago.  Dave Shain is also a fellow pipe man and restores pipes and has a great website, www.ThePipery.com.  In 2017, Dave won the Master of Pipes award from the Chicago Pipe Collectors Club for his work and charitable activities through The Free Pipe Project where Dave spearheads a program to send quality restored pipes to servicemen serving their country.  I visited Dave where he lives near Atlanta, Georgia, and we had a great time renewing our relationship.  He showed me his workshop, pipe and tobacco collections, and of course, we settled down in the ‘Barn’ flanked by a vintage Ford pickup – his Man Cave, to share a bowl or two.  It was a fun reunion!  I left with a tin of his aged Escudo and several pipes he wanted me to restore for the Daughters of Bulgaria, which I was more than happy to do.  Thanks Dave!The Tom Howard is now on my worktable because another pipe man, Paresh, saw it on The Pipe Steward site in my section, For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only!  This is where I post pipes that are in my electronic ‘Help Me!’ basket that others can commission to add to their collections.  Like me, through rebornpipes’ Steve Laug’s encouragement and tutelage, Paresh started restoring some of his own pipes in India, where he lives, and publishing his write ups on rebornpipes.  This LINK will take you to his restorations published on rebornpipes – he does a great job!   After seeing some of my restorations online, Paresh visited The Pipe Steward and saw some pipes that chose him – like Harry Potter and the wizard’s wands!  One thing I’ve learned in my growing relationship with Paresh as we’ve communicated back and forth between Bulgaria and India, is that he doesn’t like large pipes – he LOVES large pipes!  And this Tom Howard Jumbo Squat Rustified Tomato got his attention – here are the pictures he saw in For ‘Pipe Dreamers’ Only!The pipe is marked on the left shank with ‘Tom Howard’ in cursive script and ‘Imported Briar’ on the right shank side in the same script.  For a Squat Tomato, I’ve labeled it a ‘Jumbo’ because it has a definite stout presence in the palm.  The dimensions of the bowl give you an understanding of Tom Howard’s presence: Length: 5 5/16 inches, Height: 1 1/2 inches, Bowl width: 2 1/8 inches, Rim width: 1 1/2 inches, Chamber width: 7/8 inches, Chamber depth: 1 1/4 inches.I had never heard of a Tom Howard stamp on a pipe and after I put the name in search tool on Pipedia I was surprised to find what I found.  Tom Howard was a vintage celebrity in America during the 1940s and 50s.  Here’s the Pipedia said about Tom Howard the man:

Tom Howard was a popular comedian and personality in the 1940s/50s, known for vaudeville stage and radio work. But he also was a skilled pipe maker. In a Popular Mechanic article from 1947 he is written up as the “Hobbyist of the Month, Tom Howard.” He made pipes in his workshop outside his home in Red Bank, NJ. starting about 1939 and looks like into the late 1940’s or later. He purchased briar blocks by the bag as well as stem blanks, and in his well-equipped shop he handcrafted his pipes, in about three hours on average. He was a true craftsman, also specializing is intricate model boats, trains and brass canons, all built to scale.

I was intrigued – this vaudeville and stage comedian made pipes and this pipe came from his workshop made by his hands.  How cool is that?  Desiring to find out more about Tom Howard the man, I searched Wikipedia and found a fun and informative article about his professional life and how he hosted a I was intrigued – this vaudeville and stage comedian made pipes and this pipe came from his workshop made by his hands.  How cool is that?  Desiring to find out more about Tom Howard the man, I searched Wikipedia and found a fun and informative article about his professional life and how he hosted a zany Q&A game show that was spoofing the ‘serious’ Q&A game shows.  It was called “It Pays to Be Ignorant”.   Here is what the Wikipedia article said:

It Pays to Be Ignorant was a radio comedy show which maintained its popularity during a nine-year run on three networks for such sponsors as Philip MorrisChrysler, and  DeSoto. The series was a spoof on the authoritative, academic discourse evident on such authoritative panel series as Quiz Kids and Information Please, while the beginning of the program parodied the popular quiz show, Doctor I.Q. With announcers Ken Roberts and Dick Stark, the program was broadcast on Mutual from June 25, 1942 to February 28, 1944, on CBS from February 25, 1944 to September 27, 1950 and finally on NBC from July 4, 1951 to September 26, 1951. The series typically aired as a summer replacement.

Snooping a bit more, I found an online site that had the July 5, 1951 episode of ‘It pays to Be Ignorant’ available for viewing.  I watched it and it was like I was in a time machine!  The video also included period advertising for cars and tobacco and Tom Howard in form, dawning a professorial gown and a gravelly 1950s vaudeville tin can voice.  It’s great! I clipped a picture of the episode.  If you want to see it yourself, here’s the link:  The Internet Archive.

The Pipedia article I included above, referenced one more source to learn a bit more about Tom Howard.  In a 1947 Popular Mechanics edition he was named ‘Hobbyist of the Month’ – but it didn’t say which month!  With a little bit of help from Google, I found Archive.org that housed old editions of many periodicals including Popular Mechanics.  I started in January and started searching – thankfully they had a search tool I utilized for each month.  Finally, I found the article in the Popular Mechanic 1947 June’s edition.   For the absolute nostalgia of it, and for the interesting information it adds about Tom Howard and especially his pipe production, I’m including the pages here for you to read – including the cover page!  I couldn’t pass it up!   With a greater appreciation for the pipe man, Tom Howard, I take another look at the Jumbo Squat Rustified Tomato before me and based upon the articles above the dating of this pipe could range from the late 1930s to the early 50s as Tom Howard died in 1955 at the age of 70 according to Wikipedia.  The chamber has very little cake buildup.  The rim is worn and the rustification on the rim is filled or simply worn down – I’ll need to clean this to see.  The inner lip of the rim is darkened by scorching.  The rustified stummel is attractive – it has scratches and blemishes from use.  The smooth briar around the rustification is nice looking – I think it will look very nice after cleaned and spruced up some.  The stem has some oxidation and the bit shows minor tooth chatter.  I notice too, that Tom Howard but a subtle bend on the saddle stem to give the stem a definite orientation – nice touch and it looks good too.I begin the restoration by cleaning the internal airway of the stem using a pipe cleaner dipped in isopropyl 95% and then adding it to a soak of Before & After Deoxidizer along with other stems of pipes in queue to be restored.  After a few hours I remove the stem from the bath and wipe it down with a cotton pad wetted with light paraffin oil (mineral oil) removing the light oxidation that was raised from the vulcanite.Turning now to the stummel, to remove the light cake in the chamber I use the Pipnet Reaming Kit.  Even though the cake is light, I want to give the chamber a fresh start.  I jump right to the 3rd largest blade head and finish using the largest.  I follow the reaming blades by using the Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Tool to scrape the chamber wall further, then finish by sanding the chamber with 240 grit paper wrapped around a Sharpie Pen.  To clean the carbon dust, I wipe the chamber with a cotton pad wetted with isopropyl 95%.  I inspect the chamber wall and it looks good – no cracks or heat fissures.  The pictures show the process. To clean the external surface of the stummel, I use undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and cotton pads.  I also utilize a bristled tooth brush to clean the rustification as well as a brass bristled brush to work on the rim and the dark scorching on the inner lip. Turning to the internals, I use cotton buds and pipe cleaners with isopropyl 95% to clean. I also employ dental spatulas to scrape the mortise walls as well as a drill bit to clean the airway.  I sized a bit just large enough to fit the airway and hand-turn the bit to clean the tars off the walls.  After some time, the cotton buds and pipe cleaners start coming out cleaner.  Later, I will continue the internal cleaning by giving the internals a kosher salt and alcohol soak.Turning to the stem, I use 240 grit paper to sand out the roughness and tooth dent in the bit area – upper and lower.  I follow this by wet sanding the entire stem with 600 grit paper.  I then use 0000 grade steel wool to sand/buff the stem.  The pictures show the progress. While I was sanding, I notice that the draft hole in the button is not shaped well – a bite compression or something.  I use a sharp needle file to even the opening and I repeat the sanding process for the button end – 240, 600 and 0000 steel wool.With my day ending, I continue the cleaning of the stummel internals by utilizing a kosher salt and alcohol soak.  I create a ‘wick’ by pulling and twisting a cotton ball.  I then insert it and stuff it down the mortise into the airway as much as it will allow.  I then fill the chamber with kosher salt – why kosher?  It will not leave a residue taste as iodized salt.  I place the stummel in an egg cart to keep it steady and fill the bowl with alcohol using a large eye dropper until it surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes I top it off once more – and turn off the lights. The next morning, the kosher salt/alcohol soak had done its job.  The salt and wick are soiled by drawing out more tars and oils.  I throw the used salt in the waste and wipe the bowl with paper towel and blow through the mortise to dislodge any remaining salt.  I then use a few more cotton buds and pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl 95% to make sure.  All is good – clean – and I move on! Looking at the stummel, I see several scratches on the smooth briar surrounding the rustification.  The rim isn’t even and it is worn.  I decide to freshen the rim by topping the stummel but only lightly – I don’t want to erase the rustification that Tom Howard placed there many years ago!  Using 240 grade paper on a chopping board, I invert the stummel and give it a few rotations and look.  I do this a few times and decide I’ve taken off enough.  It looks good and the rustification remains intact.  I then switch to 600 grade paper on the topping board and give the stummel a few more rotations.  This erases the rougher 240 scratches and smooths the rim surface.  The pictures show the topping process from the start to finish. Darkened briar remains on the inner ring of the rim from scorching (picture above).  To address this, I introduce a gentle internal bevel using 120 grade paper, followed by 240, then 600.  With each paper grade, I roll the piece of sanding paper into a tight roll and rotate it around the circumference of the internal lip by pinching the paper with my thumb.  This allows a uniform beveling to emerge.  The pictures show the progression. Now to the briar surface.  The smooth briar has a lot of small scratches and rough places throughout.  The first picture below also shows an example of Tom Howard’s rustification processes not contained to the rustification areas. I will spot sand these areas. First, I sand out the overrun rustification marks with 240 and 600 paper.  And then, to address the smooth briar of the entire stummel, I use a rough grade sanding sponge to remove the scratches and blemishes.  I then follow with a medium grade sponge then a light grade sponge.  Taking the stummel to the next step, I wet sand it with micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sand with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  All I can say is, ‘Wow!’  I love watching the grain emerge through the micromesh pad regimen.  Each pad teases out the grain a bit more.  The pictures show the progression. I put the stummel aside and pick up the Tom Howard stem and using micromesh pads 1500 to 2400, I wet sand.  Then I dry sand using pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of three pads, I apply a generous coating of Obsidian Oil that revitalizes the vulcanite stem.  The result is the glossy pop we all expect! Looking again at the stummel, there are some pinhead fills on the left shank side that need to be addressed as well as the worn rustification cuts that have fill material visible and generally, is lighter than desired.  I take some pictures of the different things I see.In the Pipedia article of Tom Howard, there were several pictures of his pipes that were provided courtesy of Doug Valitchka, which give an idea of the original motif used when Tom Howard rustified his pipes.  The picture below shows a dark shaded rustification, though it appears that Mr. Howard put a dye on this stummel to give it a more reddish hue.  Using this picture as a guide, I use a walnut dye stick to color and blend the pinhead fills and to redefine the rustification, yet I prefer the natural briar hue of this Tom Howard Squat Tomato and will not stain the stummel. Now, to ‘rough up’ the rustification, I mount the Dremel with a more abrasive felt buffing wheel set at 40% full power and apply Tripoli compound to the rustification.  The effect is that this softens the hue – blends it more so that it doesn’t look painted.  I think it does the job and I like the blending!I buff the stummel with a felt cloth to remove leftover compound and I apply Before & After Restoration Balm to the stummel.  This Balm works well to bring out the deep hues of the natural briar.  I squeeze some Balm on my finger and I work it into the stummel and rustification.  The Balm begins as a light oil texture then thickens as it’s works into the briar.  I let is set for several minutes then I wipe/buff the Balm residue off with a microfiber cloth. I then reunite stem and stummel and mount a cotton cloth buffing wheel to the stummel, maintain a 40% full power speed, and apply Blue Diamond compound to both stem and stummel.  As before, using a felt cloth, I buff the pipe to remove compound dust left behind before waxing.  I then mount another cotton cloth buffing wheel onto the Dremel, maintain the same speed, and apply carnauba wax to the entire pipe.  I finish by giving the pipe a good hand-buffing with a microfiber cloth to raise the shine of the briar even more.

I’m pleased with the results of the Tom Howard Jumbo Rustified Squat Tomato.  I’m pleased with the textured blending of the rustification with the backdrop of beautiful smooth briar.  The contrast between the two is attractive.  I’m thankful to Dave Shain for giving me this Tom Howard to restore for the Daughters.  I’m also thankful for having discovered through the research the story of an interesting man.  Tom Howard was an accomplished comedian and stage person during his time.  But most interesting to me was his pursuits at home – in his workshop making quality pipes – not on a factory production line, but one pipe at a time with his own hands.  His love of pipes and placing them in other’s hands reminds me somewhat of my own worktable – the love of restoration and passing pipes on to others.  Paresh commissioned this Tom Howard and he will have the first opportunity to acquire him in The Pipe Steward Store.  This pipe will also benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria – our work helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

Whatever it takes to make a pipe usable – A Creative WWII Trench Repair


Blog by Steve Laug

I was on Facetime recently with Paresh and Abha in India, talking about pipe restoration and what they were currently working on together. Paresh showed me some of the pipes that they were working on as well as several that he wanted to send to me to work on. One of them was a pipe that had come to him from a family friend who told him it came from WW2 and had belonged to a German soldier. He was not sure what to do with this one and almost felt that it was not worth working on. A piece with that kind of story attached is always interesting to me and I wanted to see it and also work on restoring it. Paresh brought the metal box that the pipe came to him in and the assortment of pieces that made up the pipe to the table to show me what was there. It had what looked like two stem options with it. The one that looked right was a Perspex stem. He was able to remove the brass shank extension from the bowl while were talking and thought he had broken it. I did not think so but underneath the brass there was a broken shank. The brass had been slipped over the broken shank as an extension. The pieces could all be combined to make a functional pipe. I was excited to get this pipe and work on it. Here are some photos of the pipe box. It bears the initials CK and a raise pipe on the cover. When the box was opened the pipe parts were scattered in the larger compartment. There was a bent wire in the box as well. I have a theory how that was used and will talk about it shortly. It is obvious that the box was made to fit a pipe in the upper compartment and tobacco and lighting material in the lower portion. There is a fabric piece fixed to the lid that keeps the pipe from moving around the box.Paresh kept the box in India and mailed the pipe parts to me to see what I could do with them. It took a long time for the pipe to arrive in Vancouver from India. I would have forgotten about it if Paresh had not sent me WhatsApp messages to see if it had made it here. Finally there was a parcel notice hanging on my door when I came home from work. The postie had written that a package was at the post office and I could pick it up the next day after 1pm. I picked it up the next day after work and brought it home. I carefully unwrapped the plastic sleeve that enclosed the box. I cut the tape that held the box closed. Inside were the pipes that Paresh wanted me to work on. The “War” pipe was in a plastic bag and wrapped in bubble wrap. I carefully took it out of the wrappings and put it on the desk. I took the following photos to show the condition of all the parts before I started the cleanup and restoration.I examined the pieces carefully to see if I could come to any conclusions about the provenance of the pipe as it now stood. The bowl was in rough condition but I thought it could be cleaned up to at least carry on the trust of a pipeman from the past. The brass was very interesting and had been cut off on one end. Each end had a different diameter. One end was the size to fit on the broken shank and the other fit the wooden extension. The wooden extension appeared to be oak or a like hard wood. The inside appeared to have been burned and was darkened on each end. It had a copper ring around the end where the stem went. The ring had been hammered smooth and worked onto the shank end to keep it from splitting when the stem was inserted. The two stems were interesting. The white one looked like a cigarillo holder to me and probably was the first stem to be used on the pipe. It could possibly fit over the wooden extension prior to the addition of the copper ring. That leaves me to assume that the clear stem was a later addition and the ring was added to make sure that it did not split the wood when inserted. All parts were very dirty but I could see how they went together to make a smokeable pipe. We talked about the background of the pipe on Facetime and also on WhatsApp several other times and he told me the story that had been passed on to him by the friend of his family. I wrote to Paresh and asked if he could give me a summary about the pipe – write down some of what he had told me in our conversations. This is what he wrote to me.

This WWII pipe was handed over to me by one of my best buddies who has a family tradition of serving in the Army. This pipe once belonged to his eldest maternal Uncle who had participated in WW II as a Sepoy (an Indian soldier serving under British or other European orders) and later during the war rose to become a Junior Commissioned Officer. He had participated in the Operations in North Africa as part of a British Indian Division. It was during one of the battles at El Agheila during November – December 1941 that he had picked this up this pipe with its case from one of the overrun German trenches as a souvenir and had been with him since…. – Regards, Paresh

That was the information that I was looking for about this pipe. It is one thing to assume that the pipe was a War Memorabilia but another thing to get the history behind it. Thanks Paresh. Now I knew that I was dealing with a German soldier’s pipe and pipe case that had been left behind either when he was killed or when he abandoned German trenches in haste fleeing the British Indian Division. His friend’s uncle had picked up the case from the trench as a souvenir. It had remained in the family in the case in parts since that time.

This is where my imagination took over and tried to figure out how the pipe had come to its current state. I wonder what was in the mind of the pipeman who put the pieces together. So I took what I could see and imagined the following scenario from the parts.

Somewhere along the journey of the soldier CK and his pipe he had broken the shank on what must have been his only pipe. It was broken and either could be thrown away as garbage along the way or perhaps he could rebuild it. The broken shank was the impetus for repairing the pipe and the way it was done was highly creative.

The remnant of the shank was carefully modified with a knife judging from the way the broken shank end was carved. The pipe man had used his knife to create a ledge around the broken part where it connected to the bowl. A brass shell casing was cut and modified to fit on the shelf that had been carved thus repairing and lengthening the shank. The shell casing was pressed onto the carved shank until it was almost flush with the back side of the bowl. A piece of wood – branch or an oak stick was “drilled out” by heating the bent wire in the box until it was red hot and then inserting it repeatedly down the middle of the wood branch until there was an airway burned into the center. You can still see the burn marks on the inside.

The one end of the shank was drilled out and inserted into the small diameter end of the shell casing. The other end, the shank end of the piece of was carved out with a knife to receive a stem. There was a hammered copper ring that had been crafted and pressed onto the stem end of the shank. The box contained two different stems with the pipe. The first was a cigarette or cigarillo holder that could have been fit over the top of the dowel. Not very pretty and not very functional as it did not fit well. The second stem was a Perspex stem that was quite long. It obviously was the one used with the pipe as the airway was very dirty. There was also some internal burning in the stem itself that is odd. I wonder if the soldier who fashioned the pipe did not put a burning wire up the stem to open it as well and damage the internals of the stem.

I probably will never know the story behind the pipe for sure but what I have imagined is certainly a very real possibility. Whatever the story is the pipe is a fascinating piece of WWII memorabilia.

With the imagination satisfied and combined with the story that came with the pipe I examined the pipe parts to see what I was dealing with. It was obvious that the pipe was smoked a lot. It was probably the soldier’s only pipe and it rarely sat unlit by the looks of it. The bowl was thickly caked and damaged the externals were worn. It appeared that the pipe had been dropped a few times as there were deep gouges in the briar on the heel of the pipe. The finish on the briar was worn out and dark but underneath there were remnants of what looked like nice grain. The rim top was damaged and the inner edge of the bowl was rough. The bowl appeared to have been repeatedly reamed with a knife. The airway entering the bottom of the bowl was also worn from the piece of wire in the pipe case. I would clean up the pipe and leave the character intact. Many would have left the pipe as it was but to me the work that the original pipeman did to keep the pipe useable made me want to carry on his legacy and give Paresh a chance to at least smoke it.

I decided to clean up all of the parts individually. I scraped out the brass shell casing with a small pen knife and then scrubbed the inside with cotton swabs and isopropyl alcohol until the inside was as clean as the shiny brass exterior. The first photo shows the cut edge that the wooden extension inserted into. The second photo shows smooth edge that sat on the carved ledge against the bowl and the other edge was the cut edge. I cleaned the wooden extension next, scraping the grit and tars that had built up on the inside. The end that fit toward the bowl had an airway drilled through from the other end. It looked to me that the airway had been burned through with a hot wire. It was darkened from being inserted into the brass and as it had oxidized it had coloured the wood. The end that held the stem was carved to receive the tenon. It had been banded with a copper ring to stabilize the wood. I used a pen knife to scrape the grime out of the extension and then cleaned it with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. I used the topping board and 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the insert end and remove some of the damage to the wood.With the brass and wooden shank extensions cleaned it was time to clean the bowl. I took a photo of the bowl to show the thickness of the cake on the walls and the trough that had been carved in the bottom of the bowl to the airway leaving the bowl. It looks to me that the trough has been gouged out over time by cleaning the pipe with the wire that was in the box. The cake on bowl walls was thick and uneven all the way around. It was also quite crumbly and soft. The pipe smelled musty from the years that it had been sitting since the war. Once it was removed there would be work to be done to smooth out the walls of the bowl. There are spots that appear quite thin and there will need to be at least a bowl coating done to protect the bowl.I carefully removed the cake from the bowl with a Savinelli Fitsall Pipe Knife, scraping it from the walls. You can see from the photos how crumbly and soft the carbon chunks were. I wrapped some 220 grit sandpaper around a piece of dowel and sanded the walls to remove the remaining cake.I used a dental spatula to rebuild the inside back edge of the bowl rim with clear super glue and briar dust. This was just the first step in the process that would take a lot more work to bring it back to a useable condition.I lightly topped the bowl on a topping board with a piece of 220 grit sandpaper. I did not want to remove much of the briar, just smooth out the damage. The first photo shows the topping and the second the rim after topping.I filled in the divots in the bottom of the bowl and carefully repaired what looked like a crack in the briar with clear super glue and briar dust. Once the repair had cured I sanded the repair smooth with 220 grit sandpaper to blend it into the surface of the briar. I carefully sanded the bowl and rim with micromesh sanding pads. I set the bowl aside and worked on putting the parts of the shank extension back together. I heated the brass shell casing with a Bic lighter to expand it enough to be pressed on to the wooden shank tube. I scrubbed the tube with Before & After Pipe Balm and lightly sanded the extension with 220 grit sandpaper. I polished the brass and copper band with micromesh sanding pads.I cleaned out the inside of the newly reassembled shank with alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs. I cleaned out both ends of the new shank.I cleaned out the broken shank on the bowl with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol in preparation for gluing on the shank extension. I dried it out and coated the shelf with white all-purpose glue. Once the glue was in place I pressed the shank extension onto the bowl. I wiped away the excess glue. Once the glue had set I took pictures of the pipe at this point in the process. To match the stain remaining on the bowl I used the mislabeled tan aniline stain. It is a reddish-brown almost cordovan coloured. I figured it would match the existing colour very well. I applied the stain with a dauber and flamed it with a lighter to set it in the grain. I repeated the process until the coverage on the bowl was even.I wiped the bowl down with alcohol on a cotton pad to even out the coverage and make the stain more transparent. I wanted the grain to show through the finish. I used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the inner edge of the rim and the inside of the bowl.I set the bowl aside and turned my attention to the stem at this point in the process. It was truly a mess. There were tars and oils lining the airway making it almost black and there was damage to the interior of the stem material around the airway. I started the cleaning process using liquid cleanser and pipe cleaners to remove some of the tars. I was able to get a lot of the stuff out of the airway.I used a small round needle file to further clean out the airway. I sanded the interior of the airway to smooth out the surface of the drilled area. I ran alcohol dampened pipe cleaners through after the files to clean out the dust. The stem was finally getting clean. I took some close up photos of the stem to show the airway after filing. The photos also show the internal damage to the stem from what looks like fire. 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. I rubbed down the briar and the oak shank extension with Before & After Restoration Balm. I worked it into the smooth surface of the briar and oak with my fingertips 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 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 carefully 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 newly stained finish works well when polished to really highlight the variety of grains and mask the damage around the bowl and shank. The polished Perspex stem works together with the beautiful grain in the briar and the brass and oak shank extension 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 demonstrate the creativity of the German soldier CK who left it in the trenches of North Africa. The dimensions are Length: 7 inches, Height: 1 inch, Outside diameter of the bowl: 1 1/4 inches, Chamber diameter: 3/4 inches. The pipe is ready to head back to Paresh in India once I finish the other ones he sent to me. This pipe has really travelled – from Germany to North Africa to India to Canada and back to India. I wish it could tell its own story. Thanks for walking through the restoration with me as I worked over this interesting piece of memorabilia. 

Restoring an Old-Vic 8523


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

The next pipe that I decided to work on is a smallish beautiful bent Dublin shape with unique hexagonal  giving the appearance of a honey collection cell in a beehive. These are definitely not hand crafted rustication as the perfect geometry, details and alignment of these tiny hexagons is difficult to achieve by hand. But, nevertheless, it is one handsome looking pipe!!!!

As described above, this dude has these rustication all over the stummel and over the round shank, save for a smooth portion on the bottom of the shank which bears all the identification marks of this pipe and the rim top which looks amazing. It is stamped on the left corner of the shank with “Old-Vic” in with old style curls. The end of the letter “c” curves back in a linear fashion and underlines up to the letter “d” in the name Old , before fading off gradually. Old-Vic is followed by “# 8523”. Just below the number and starting from the end of the letter “c” in Old-Vic, it is stamped as “CENTURY OLD” over “BRIAR ITALY”. Towards the right end of the shank and mid way, it bears the stamp “BURL GRAIN” in an arch over a very faint stamp which I could not make out. The vulcanite saddle stem is of high quality and is stamped on the left side of the saddle with “OLD-VIC”.Not much is known about this brand other than that these were made by LORENZO and hence the Italian connection. I have to concede that Italian pipes are very desirable looking with perfect proportions and beautifully crafted. I had even made an attempt to know more about this line of Lorenzo pipes by emailing Lorenzo’s American distributors, but have no response from them since last 15 days. Mr. Dal Stanton, if you are reading this piece, please enlighten me with your MANTRA for making these guys respond!!!!!!!!!!!

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
As is commonly seen on rusticated or sandblasted pipes with some serious age on them, the crevices in these are always filled with dust, dirt, oils, tars and grime from all the years of smoking and storage. This Old-Vic is no exception to this observation. The small hexagonal pockets are filled with dust while the smooth bottom of the shank is covered in dust and sticky grime. The fact that the hexagonal patterns are dirty and filled with dirt is accentuated more due to a very dark reddish brown stain on the stummel and the shank. The briar is looking lifeless and bone dry and has taken black hues. The bowl is narrow and tapers down towards the draught hole. The chamber is so filled with cake that I am unable to reach the bottom of the bowl with my little finger. The build-up of the cake is more heavy in the bottom half of the bowl. The mortise is full of oils and gunk and air flow is restricted. The rim top is smooth and the grains are accentuated with a lighter stain, which can be seen through the overflowing lava. The inner and outer edge of the rim is in pristine condition with no dings or dents. The vulcanite stem is so heavily oxidized that it appears brown in color!!!! Some light tooth chatter is seen on both surfaces of the stem towards the lip. This issue should not be a major headache to address. The lip edge on both side is crisp and without any damage. The quality of vulcanite is good. THE PROCESS
I started this project by removing the cake from the chamber and cleaning it. However, no sooner did I start, I realized that my Kleen Reem pipe reamer would not fit in the chamber. The cake was so densely packed and thick that my British Buttner reamer could get damaged. So, the only option left was my fabricated knife!!!!  It was laborious, but the task was accomplished. I found the chamber to be solid and without any heat fissures or cracks. To finish the chamber, I used a folded piece of 150 grit sand paper to sand the inner walls. This was followed by 220 and 400 grit sand paper and now we have a smooth and even surface on the walls of the chamber, ready for taking on a fresh layering of carbon cake!!!!! I wiped the rim top with a cotton pad dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This helped me to get rid of all the overflow of lava as well as the dirt and dust that had accumulated on the rim surface. This was followed by cleaning the mortise with cue tips, pipe cleaners and shank brush dipped in isopropyl alcohol. This further eliminated all the traces of old smells from previous usage. Now, it was the turn of the stummel to get cleaned up. Using a hard bristled tooth brush dipped in undiluted Murphy’s oil soap, I very deliberately scrubbed through all the hexagonal patterns, cleaning them thoroughly. I cleaned the rim too. The stummel and rim top was dried using paper napkins and soft cotton cloth. I set the stummel aside to dry out naturally.While the stummel was drying, I worked the stem. In order to address the minor tooth chatters, I flame the surfaces of the stem with a Bic lighter. This brings most of the tooth chatter to the surface. For a better blending, I further sanded the entire stem with 220 followed by 400 and 800 grit sand paper. This helps to reduce the sanding marks left behind by the more abrasive 220 grit paper. To bring a deep shine to the vulcanite stem, I went through the complete set of micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped the stem with alcohol after each pad and rubbed it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil. The internals of the stem was cleaned out using alcohol and pipe cleaners. The finished stem is shown below. I wanted to highlight the grains on the rim top as well as enhance the contrast with the rest of the pipe. To achieve this aim, I sand down the rim top using micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. The rim top now has a deep shine with grains popping out and now with a magnificent contrast with rest of the stummel. Once I was satisfied with the stem and rim top restoration, I started work on the stummel which has dried by now. I rub a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. To finish, using a cotton cloth and brute muscle power, I gave it a final polish. I re-attach the stem with the stummel. The completed pipe looks lovely, fresh and vibrant; the photographs speak for themselves. Thank you for having the patience to reach this far while reading the write up.

Jobey Original T1


Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I had started work on a Somerset Paneled Billiard when, after reaming the chamber, a few cracks had revealed themselves. This is one issue that I always wish is not seen on any pipe in my hand. But there it was, and here I am, addressing it. The process is quite time consuming and requires a lot of curing time. Thus, while the billiard was curing, I started work on its far more beautiful (and my favorite!!!) sibling, the Somerset Rhodesian. And lo and behold!!!!!!!! Cracks were seen on the bottom and above the draught hole in more or less the same place as the billiard. Thus, I am now dealing with two pipes with cracked chamber. I was so put off with this that for next two days I did not touch any other project. The next few days, I was very busy with some important assignment and was away from my pipes.

Well, returned back and went through my pipes for restoration. I picked up this Jobey for its unique shape and the size of the bowl. I was thinking this to be an Oom Paul when Mr. Steve, very gently reminded me that the bowl is more of a Dublin and that he would rather call it as a “Bent Dublin Sitter”. He does have a unique way of mentoring, I must say. And so, working on this Jobey Original bent Dublin sitter!!!!!!!!!

This sandblasted Jobey has a nice deep bowl with a steeply raking shank and a flat bottom, making it a perfect sitter. For its size, it is pretty light weighing at less than 50 grams and easy to dangle, making it a nice clincher. It is stamped on the left side of the shank, on a plain surface as “Jobey” over “ORIGINAL” followed by “T 1”. The saddle stem has the brass roundel with “JOBEY” in block capital letters on the top surface of the saddle while the right side is stamped on the stem saddle with “ENGLISH” over “PARA”. This stamping is something which I have not seen before on any Jobey pipes!!!! Does it have any significance, I could not find out. So all the learned readers, may I request you to fill in the details on this stamping and benefit us all. All the stampings are clear, robust and easily readable.From the information gleaned from the rebornpipes, Pipedia and pipephil and various other sites, the only relevant facts that emerged were:-

(a) This shape is not mentioned anywhere or seen in any catalogue.

(b) “ORIGINAL T 1” stamp has not been mentioned anywhere.

(c) This does not have the famed “Jobey Link” – the tenon system that is popular for its ease of cleaning and replacing.

(d) The stem is stamped, in addition to its TM Jobey in a brass roundel, as “ENGLISH PARA” which does not find any mention.

Thus, either this pipe is ultra rare or it’s a GHOST!!!!!! CAN ANYONE HELP?

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The Jobey Original, now on the worktable is in good shape. The stummel is covered in a thick layer of dust and grime. I wouldn’t call the sandblast seen on this pipe as beautiful, but rather different in that no definite grain pattern discernible and this is what makes it worthy of admiration. The dark reddish/ maroon stained finish is dull and lackluster. I only hope that there isn’t an acrylic finish which is a bear to remove (Dr. Grabow Omega being fresh in my mind!!).  This restoration may be more of a refresher if the finish isn’t a problem. The bowl is heavily caked with a thick overflow of lava on the rim top. The round inner and outer edges of the rim appear to be intact with no signs of damage. The deep and tapering down chamber will pose difficulties during the reaming process. The pipe chamber has a strong and spicy smell to it which will have to be addressed. Removing the dust, oils, tars and grime from the rim top will be time consuming. I only hope and pray that the inner walls of the chamber are without any surprises. It will be too much of a coincidence to have three pipes in a row to have beginnings of a burn out or a through crack.The stem is heavily oxidized but with minimal of tooth chatter and no bite marks on either surfaces. The brass roundel is dull looking and will need to be polished. It appears that this stem had a stinger attached to it, which either had accidentally broken or could be that while attempting to remove, it was broken. The jagged remnants of the aluminum can be distinctly seen. The mortise is clogged and blowing air through it is very laborious. THE PROCESS
I always start my pipe restorations by getting rid of all the cake in the stummel. This provides me with a map of any other issues which may have to be addressed subsequently. Usually these processes is undertaken by my wife and believe you me, she has achieved expertise in this process!!!!!! But now that I have joined my duty station and she having to stay behind for children’s education, this is being done by yours truly!!!! I start the reaming process with a Kleen Reem pipe reamer followed by scrapping with my trusted fabricated knife till I have managed to take the cake back to the bare briar. The crusted lava overflow was gently scrapped off from the rim top with the knife. I finish this stage by sanding the inner walls of the chamber with a folded 220 grit sand paper. This helps to remove any remnants of the cake and smooth the walls of the chamber. I wiped the chamber with cotton pads dipped in alcohol to remove any cake dust. I further cleaned the shank with hard bristled, regular pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol. Oh my….  The grunge continues unabated!  This is one of the nastiest pipes I’ve tackled!Usually, deep cleaning of the chamber also rids the pipe of any old smells, but in this instance, that was not the case. The strong spicy sweet smell was still prevalent. To get rid of this smell, and clean the mortise, I decided to give it a salt and alcohol treatment. I filled the bowl and shank with kosher salt keeping it slightly below the rim level. I filled it with isopropyl alcohol and left it overnight to do its magic. I usually seal the shank end with a plastic sheet tightly wrapped around a cue tip to avoid the alcohol from oozing out, but in this case since the shank is upturned, there was no need to do so. By next morning the salt is dark colored, more so the salt in the shank. I removed all the salt and with a pipe cleaner cleaned the bowl and shank of any residual salts. I blew through the draught hole to dislodge the trapped salts. I wiped the bowl clean and dried the shank and bowl with paper napkins and pipe cleaners and set it aside to dry for an entire day. By evening, the pipe chamber was nice and dry and all the smells were history. Now that the internals were addressed, it was time to clean the externals. I cleaned the exteriors of the stummel and the rim top with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and a hard bristled tooth brush. With a 000 grade steel wool, I scrubbed the rim top to remove the stubborn overflow of lava. I dried the stummel with paper towels and a soft, absorbent cotton cloth and set it aside to dry naturally. I was elated when I realized that there is no acrylic finish applied to the stummel as can be seen from the following pictures!!!! While the stummel was drying, I decided to clean up the stem. I started by flaming the surface of the stem with a Bic lighter. This helps to raise the minor tooth chatter marks to the surface to a great extent. I followed it up with sanding it down with a 220 grit sand paper. I took special care and efforts to enhance the lip and lip edges on both surfaces with the folded sand paper. I had applied a smear of whitener to the stamping of ENGLISH PARA to enhance it and also to demarcate it during the sanding process. To finish the stem restoration, I sand it with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 pads and dry sanding it with 3200 to 12000 grit pads. I wiped it down with Extra Virgin Olive oil in between the pads. The stem is now nice, shining and glossy black. After cleaning the internals of the stem with pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol, I applied a final rub of Extra Virgin Olive oil to the stem and set it aside to be absorbed. Returning to the stummel refurbishing, I rubbed some “Before and After Restoration” balm in to the surface. The transformation is almost immediate. The bowl now has a nice lively sheen to it. I left it to rest for a few moments and then buffed it with a horse hair shoe brush to ensure that the balm cleans and protects within the sandblast. To finish, I polished it with a soft cotton cloth. To finish, I rubbed a small quantity of HALCYON II WAX in to the stummel and polished it by hand using a soft cotton cloth and reattached the stem. It was while reattaching the stem that I realized that I had not addressed the issue of broken stinger protruding from the tenon!!!!! Using a rounded needle file, I sanded the jagged edges inside the tenon and thereafter with a flat head needle file; I matched the broken edges of the stinger with that of the tenon surface. That was all I could do as I was not sure of the extent to which the stinger was embedded into the airway of the stem. The finished pipe is shown below. I hope this pipe appeals to you as much as it did to me. And, as I always mean and request, your comments are a great source of encouragement and learning for me. Thank you for being an important companion on my journey in to the beautiful, challenging and SATISFYING world of pipers.

 

Tale of Two Somerset Brothers – Part 2


BENT RHODESIAN

Blog by Paresh Deshpande

I had finished the work on Somerset 8 Paneled Billiard and I was very pleased with the way it turned out. I have smoked this pipe and have to concede that it was one of the better smoking pipes in my current rotation, the draw is open and full and very smooth right up to the last morsel of tobacco. This is due to the perfect alignment of the draught hole, mortise and stem tenon. Very happy with this one, I must say!!!!!!

The sibling of the first Somerset Brother, now in my hand, is the Bent Rhodesian, and my favorite shape. The upper half of the bowl has beautiful wavy circular sandblast all round which extend to the round shank, while the bottom of the bowl has densely packed birdseye which is seen in the sandblast. Overall, this is one pipe with a beautiful sandblast patterns and as I have come to expect, the quality of the finish and vulcanite stem is par excellence. Like its paneled billiard sibling, this pipe too has a smooth and flat bottom surface and bears the only stampings seen on the pipe. It is stamped on the bottom as “SOMERSET” in a mild arch over “IMPORTED BRIAR” in straight line, all in capital letters. There is no other stamp on either shank or on the stem. The stummel and shank is stained with a very dark reddish/ maroon hue. The stem is high quality vulcanite without any stampings. As conceded in my write up on the Somerset Paneled Billiard, I have been unsuccessful in unearthing information about this brand and still remain a blind spot in my quest for knowledge on pipes. I sincerely request you to share any information you may have on this pipe.

INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
The sandblast on this pipe is covered in dirt, dust and grime and appears dull and lackluster. The bowl is heavily caked and there is overflow of lava on to the rim. This will have to be removed in order to ascertain the condition of the chamber walls. From my experience working on the paneled billiard, I won’t be surprised to find cracks and heat fissures on the walls of the chamber. There is a very strong sweet smell to the cake, which perhaps may vanish after the chamber has been cleaned.The mortise is filled with oils and tars and appears to be clogged. There is no free flow of air through the mortise. This will have to be cleaned. There is also a slight gap in the fitting between the stem and the shank. Maybe this will be resolved after a good cleaning of the mortise. The fitting of the stem in to the shank is very loose and just drops of when turned upside down.The stem is heavily oxidized and the edge of the lip on the top surface has been bitten out of shape. There is a bite mark close to the disfigured edge of the lip. These issues will have to be addressed.THE PROCESS
I reamed the bowl with a Kleen Reem pipe tool and with a knife; I further took the cake down to the briar. I have realized that the knife is best suited to remove the cake from the bottom of the chamber. As anticipated, the chamber walls did show the beginnings of a burn out!!!! With a 150 grit sand paper, the walls of the chamber were rid of all the remnants of the cake, presenting a clear picture of the extent of the damage. This pipe too had cracks at exactly same location as its sibling, though not as alarming. Since the pipe ash was still being collected, I cleaned the internals of this pipe with bristled and regular pipe cleaners dipped in isopropyl alcohol. Since the strong sweet smell did not diminish even after the cake had been removed, I decided to give it a salt and alcohol bath. I filled the bowl and shank with kosher salt up to just below the rim top and end of the shank respectively. I filled it up with isopropyl alcohol and set it aside over night to allow it to extract all the residual oils from the chamber and the shank. Next day, the salt and alcohol had done its job. I remove the darkened salts and clean the mortise with bristled pipe cleaners. I set it aside to dry. Once the internals were cleaned, I scrubbed the externals of the bowl with undiluted Murphy’s oil soap and dried it using paper towels and soft cotton cloth. I set it aside to dry. I cleaned the walls of the chamber with cotton pads dipped in isopropyl alcohol (since I was simultaneously working on the repair to the chamber of the Paneled Billiard, there is inescapable repetition of the process). Once cleaned, I inserted a folded pipe cleaner into the shank and up to the draught hole to prevent it from clogging. I made putty like paste of pipe ash and water. This paste was evenly applied to the entire inner surface of the chamber with a thin bamboo frond with shaved end to form a spatula, a bigger one at that, as compared to a regular one. I set it aside to dry out. The climate here being very wet and humid, it will take a long time to dry out.

The coating dried completely after about a week and I just gently scrapped the chamber with very light hands to check the layer. Alas, the complete coating just crumbled out leaving a very dry coat of ash through which all the cracks were easily discernible.

Fortunately, I had started collecting pipe ash and mixed it with yogurt. Using the same earlier method, I applied an even coat of pipe ash, yogurt and also added two capsules of activated charcoal. I set it aside to dry out, praying that the mixture bonds well and sticks to the walls of the chamber. A few days later, the mixture had completely cured and it did not crumble. The bonding appeared to be strong and durable. With a 400 grit sand paper, I sanded the inner walls very lightly to smooth the walls. Now the internal walls are looking solid and ready for duty again!!!! Once the issue of cracked chamber wall was addressed, I turned my attention back to the exterior of the stummel. I rubbed a small quantity of “Before and After Restoration Balm” in to briar and let it rest for a few minutes. The balm almost immediately works its magic and the briar now has a nice vibrant appearance. I further buff it with a horse hair shoe brush. Working the stem, with a Bic lighter, I flamed the surfaces of the stem to raise the tooth chatter and minor bite marks. To address the bite mark and repair the edge of the lip, I spot apply a drop of CA superglue and leave it over night to cure. The next evening, I shape the fill using flat head needle file and carve a crisp edge. To further blend in the fill, I sand the stem with a 220 grit sand paper. I sanded it down with 220, 400 and 800 grit sand paper. I wiped the stem with cotton pad dipped in alcohol to remove the resultant dust. I rubbed some extra virgin olive oil in to the stem and set it aside to be absorbed in to stem. I polished the stem with micromesh pads, wet sanding with 1500 to 2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200 to 12000. I rub a little extra virgin olive oil in to the stem after every three pads. I finish the polishing of the stem by rubbing a small quantity of Paragon wax and giving it a final polish with a soft cotton cloth. The stem is now nice, smooth and shiny. I cleaned the airway in the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol. Here, I realized that the issue of loose stem was yet to be addressed. This issue was addressed by heating the tenon with a Bic lighter, constantly rotating the stem, till the tenon was slightly pliable. I gently pushed a rounded needle file in to the tenon to enlarge it and set it aside to cool down. Once cooled down, I wiped it clean with a cotton cloth soaked in cold water. I tried the fit, and the stem sat in the shank snugly, making all the right kind of noises. I was very pleased with the fit.To finish the pipe, I rubbed a small quantity of HALCYON II wax which is used for rusticated/ sandblasted surfaces and set it aside for a few moments. Thereafter I polished it with a horse hair shoe brush and a soft cotton cloth. These Somerset pipe are very well made and smoke fantastic. The quality of the vulcanite is high grade and feels good to clench. The finished pipe is shown below. Since the completion of this restoration, I have smoked this pipe and included it in my rotation. Believe you me, this pipe, like its sibling, smokes perfect with a nice, smooth draw right to the end. This leads me to think, is it only necessary to have Dunhill, Barling, Comoy’s etc, as fantastic smokers? Well, my personal experience with these two Somersets, is that while the above mentioned brands are excellent pipes, the lesser known ones do need to be looked at and not discarded outright!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for your patience and looking forward to inputs about this brand and the write up. Cheers…………