Tag Archives: Yello-Bole Brylon pipes

Breathing New Life into a Yello-Bole Burley Pot

Blog by Steve Laug

In one of the antique malls in Idaho Falls I found a pipe that I had not seen before. I have had Medico Brylon pipes and other pipes from manmade materials but I had not seen one of these before. This pipe was stamped on the left side of the shank with the words Yello-Bole over Burley with a ® trademark symbol. It appeared to be made of the same material as a Medico that I picked up the day my eldest daughter was born – Brylon. I was sure that the Medico and the Yello-Bole were made by the same company. I was not sure but thought it would be worth picking up as I had not seen one of these before. Besides the price was right – I think it was $8 or so. The bowl had a fairly thick cake at the top and some remnants of the last tobacco smoked in the bottom of the bowl. The stem was stuck in the stem and took a little effort to move it as it was inserted upside down. When I got it out of the shank the aluminum tenon was badly oxidized and there was some corrosion on the surface. The shovel scoop stinger that is a hallmark of Yello-Bole pipes was black with tars and it was stuck in the tenon. The pipe had a heavy smell of English tobacco that made me wonder if it had ever met a pipe cleaner.Burley1

Burley2 I took some close up photos of the bowl and the tenon and shovel stinger apparatus when I got the stem off the shank. The first photo shows the thick cake on the inside of the bowl, the remnants of tobacco and the tars on the rim. It takes a long time (from my experience) and lots of smoking to build up a cake like this in a Brylon pipe. The second photo shows the corroded metal tenon as well as the dirty shovel stinger apparatus. The stem also had some tooth marks and a lot of tooth chatter on both sides of the stem at the button. I was able to wiggle the stinger out of the tenon with a little effort the third photo shows the tenon and stinger.Burley3

Burley4 Since I had not heard of the brand before I did some research before I cleaned up the pipe. I found a link to Pipedia that gave a short history of the brand and I found out that Brylon was developed by SM Frank and Company in 1966. It was a combination of resins and briar dust and was a synthetic that was cheaper alternative to briar. It is virtually indestructible and I have read other place that folks used to throw them in the dishwasher to clean them… The one I had certainly had never met this fate and I would not resort to that method in cleaning it. Here is a portion of the quote from Pipedia with a photo of the Brylon pipe. It also gives information regarding the four lines of Brylon that SM Frank sold.Burley5“This material was immediately used for Yello-Bole pipes, and millions of these pipes have been sold in the decades since then. They continue to be part of the Yello-Bole and Medico brands. At the moment Yello-Bole offers:
• 4 lines of Brylon pipes: Ebony, Nova, Burley and Standard (Prices $15.95 – $18.95) and
• 4 lines of Briar pipes: Spartan, Pug, Checker and Imperial (Prices $19.95 – $24.95).
The Yello-Bole Burley was billed as a great pipe delivering top-notch Brylon quality for just a few bucks. Featuring a push-bit with an aluminum scoop, this no-nonsense pipe is a great starter, or knock-around pipe. http://pipedia.org/wiki/Yello-Bole

I also found another link that lead on tobaccopipes.com that gave a little more history of the Yello-Bole line. I cite from that article below. http://www.tobaccopipes.com/yello-bole-pipes-history/

Yello Bole Changes Hands -Throughout the 1950s the brand changed hands a few times, finally coming to rest with S.M. Frank & Company in 1955. The brand has been made by this corporation ever since. Brylon, a synthetic pipe material, first began to be used after S.M. Frank took control and is still used today.

Affordable tobacco pipes – Today Yello Bole pipes are made of both Brylon and briar and are made to be an affordable tobacco pipe for the every-man.

Today Yello Bole tobacco pipes come in eight different lines. The Brylon pipes are Ebony, Nova, Burley, Standard and Spartan series. The smoking pipes made from briar wood include Pug, Checker and Imperial lines.

Brylon pipes are generally less expensive than briar wood pipes, generally costing only a little more than a corn cob pipe. All Brylon pipes come with a push bit and scoop. The scoop helps to trap hot flakes of tobacco. It is removable for those who don’t care for this device.

I also found several pictures of the pipe online. The first is one that I include to show the look of the pipe when it was new. The second and third photos show the same model of Burley that I had found. The pipe has a jaunty look to it that catches the eye. The one I have must have been a good smoking pipe as it was heavily used.Burley6

Burley7 I scrubbed the tenon and the stinger with 0000 steel wool to remove the corrosion and grime. It did not take much scrubbing before it was shiny and clean. I cleaned out the inside of the shank and the stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners. There is a rubber grommet inside the end of the tenon that holds the shovel stinger tightly in place.Burley8 I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer using the largest cutting head. I was able to get most of the cake out of the bowl. I also sanded the inside of the bowl to finish removing the buildup. It was fascinating to find some of the Yello-Bole bowl coating underneath the cake on the bottom half of the bowl.Burley9

Burley10 The next photo shows the cleaned and sanded bowl and the cleaned rubber grommet in the end of the tenon. The second photo shows the shovel inserted in the grommet.Burley11 I scrubbed the exterior of the Brylon with a cotton pad and alcohol to remove the grime and build up on the rim. With the bowl finished I worked on the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper, 400 grit wet dry sandpaper and with a fine grit sanding sponge to minimize the scratches. On both the top and the bottom side I was able to get rid of most of the tooth chatter but there were some deeper tooth dents that would need some more work.Burley12 I cleaned the surface of the stem with alcohol and then used clear super glue to fill the deeper dents on both surfaces.Burley13 I resanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper and with 400 grit wet dry sandpaper to smooth out the repairs and blend them into the surface of the stem. I sanded it with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge.Burley14 The nylon stems are a pain to work on and it takes a lot of sanding to get rid of the scratches. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit micromesh and paid a lot of extra attention to the repaired areas. I avoided the stamping on the stem so as not to damage that. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and while it was still wet sanded the stem with 3200-4000 grit micromesh sanding pads. I gave it another coat of oil and sanded it with 6000-12000 grit pads.Burley15


Burley17 I buffed the pipe and stem with Red Tripoli very lightly to raise a shine on the stem and then finished buffing it with Blue Diamond plastic polish. I gave the bowl and stem several coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean flannel buff. I finished by hand buffing it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below.Burley18






Yello-Bole Spartan – A Brylon Pipe Restemmed and Restored

Blog by Steve Laug

I was gifted a box of pipe bowls and stems from Jim Wagner on Smoker’s Forums. It is a great to have this box of interesting old pipes. Jim, I sure appreciate the gift box and am enjoying looking at it and choosing what to do next. The first one that caught my eye was a Yello-Bole Spartan. From reading about them the Spartan was originally a briar pipe but this one was definitely not briar. It was synthetic for sure and brown like some of the older Bakelite pipes that I have picked up over the years. I knew though from the feel of it that I was dealing with a Brylon pipe. Many folks hate them because they say the burn hotter and are heavier than briar pipes. While that may well be true I still have an older Medico I picked up 32 years ago when my first daughter was born and have smoked it a lot since that time. Several years ago I put a long Church Warden stem on it and a brass ferrule and made it into a good-looking long pipe. I have smoked it long enough that it even has developed a cake and now smokes quite well. If I am mindful to not puff hard it stays relatively cool.

Knowing that it was a Brylon pipe made me want to do a bit of digging into the history of the material. I looked on the S.M. Frank website (http://www.smfrankcoinc.com/home/?page_id=2) and found the following information:

“In 1966, S. M. Frank developed a synthetic material called Brylon as a cheaper alternative to briar. The material, a high temperature resin mixed with wood flour, was cheaper than briar, more resistant to cracking, chipping, charring and burnouts. However to some there are some drawbacks, heavier in the mouth, hotter when smoked quickly, and also simply put, “wasn’t briar.” Millions of these pipes have been sold in the 3 decades since and continue to be part of the Yello-Bole and Medico lines. Two Brylon lines in Kaywoodie, Marmont and Impulse, were briefly tried and abandoned in the late 80′s.”

I know that Brylon has a bad name among pipemen and gets a lot of disparaging comments whenever it is brought up on the pipe forums. However, pipes are still being made and sold so there must be some enduing quality. Maybe it is the indestructibility of the pipe. Perhaps we will never know what attracts folks to them. But I have one in my hand that needs work and I am loath to pass up the opportunity to learn from the process of rejuvenating this old pipe.

As usual reading the history of the material helped to give me a clearer picture of the pipe that I was working on this time. It also gave me some background on another Brylon pipe that I have in my collection. I bought that Brylon new at a 7-Eleven convenience store along with a pouch of Borkum Riff the day my oldest daughter was born. It was a delicate billiard and attracted me that early morning in 1982. I have smoked it enough that it has developed a good cake and finally smokes very cool. A few years back I restemmed it with a long Church Warden Stem and banded it with a brass ferrule to liven it up a bit. The finish was worn to I polished it. I still smoke that old Brylon and enjoy it.

However, back to the Brylon pipe at hand. This bowl was an unusual shape and one that I had not seen before. It was smoked but clean. There was the beginning of a cake in the bowl so it would soon be a cool smoker as well. It was without a stem so I found one in my stem can with a slight bend that had the same diameter as the shank and sanded the tenon by hand with 220 grit sandpaper until it was a snug fit in the shank. It looked good on the pipe but there was still something missing when I sat back and looked at the pipe. I thought maybe a bit of bling would do the trick so I went through my nickel bands and found one that was the perfect size to press on the shank and not cover the stamping on the left side.

I heated the band with a lighter and then pressed it into place on the shank. Heating the band causes it to expand and slide on to the shank while it is still hot. Once the band cools it contracts and the fit is tight unmovable. I used a sharp knife to bevel the inside edge of the mortise to accommodate the new stem solidly against the end of the shank. IMG_8222 IMG_8226 IMG_8225 IMG_8223 The stem was one that I repurposed from another pipe and it looked like it belonged on the Spartan in my opinion. The slight bend looked good with the shape of this Brylon Spartan. The stem was oxidized and dirty but did not have any tooth marks of gouges. Once I had the pipe banded I pushed the stem into place and took the photos below. IMG_8228 IMG_8231 IMG_8230 IMG_8229 I removed the stem and sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper followed by a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge. For me this step always cleans up the stem and allows me to deal with subtle reshaping of the stem. In this case the reshaping was minimal but I did some work on the underside to give it more of an arc than originally was present. I sanded until the scratches and oxidation was removed from the stem. It was clean and the flow and angles were what I was looking for. Then I sanded with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each set of three micromesh pads. Since Brylon is plastic like I decided to also sand the Brylon bowl to remove some of the scratches and smooth out one small nick in the surface of the bowl. Each successive grit of micromesh gave the finish a deeper shine and the contrasts in the Brylon surface began to stand out. IMG_8240 IMG_8243 IMG_8241 When I had finished sanding the bowl and the stem I buffed them with White Diamond and then gave the pipe several coats of carnauba wax. I polished it with a soft flannel buff to give a shine. In retrospect, I think that Brylon must be pretty indestructible and I figure I could have just thrown the pipe in the dishwasher to sanitize it. I am sure it would not have caused the least bit of damage. The finished pipe is shown below. It is cleaned, has a light cake and is ready to be fired up with an inaugural smoke. Who knows I might even like it enough to keep it around as a yard pipe. IMG_1677 IMG_1683 IMG_1682 IMG_1678