Refreshing a Vintage ‘Best Briar Pipe’ Horn Stem Paneled Apple

The next pipe on the table is a diminutive, squared panel which I would call an Apple shape.  I acquired the pipe from an eBay seller in Nevada in November of 2017.  The Paneled Apple was in a Lot of 13 pipes which headed in my direction after having the sufficient bid. Pipe man, Daryn, from the state of Texas, saw the Best Briar Pipe in the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” ONLY!’ collection and reached out to me about commissioning the pipe.  I appreciated very much Daryn’s kind words regarding the restoration work I do and that I do it to benefit the Daughters of Bulgaria – an effort helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  When I examined the pipe that he wanted to commission, it almost appeared to have never been smoked.  It was in very good shape and so I decided to work on it in the limited time I had before my wife and I headed out to do some camping in the Rocky Mountains.  Here are pictures of the Best Briar Pipe Paneled Apple Daryn commissioned.  This is an interesting pipe with several questions.  The eBay seller from Nevada described the pipe as having a German provenance and with a 50+ age.  I receive this kind of information usually with a grain of salt but sometimes it is helpful. The first question is concerning the horn stem and the tenon.  When I first examined it, I was reminded of the century old pipes that my good friend in India, Paresh, inherited from his grandfather.  The pipes themselves were partially made of albatross bone.  With the question in my mind regarding the material of this tenon, I sent a note to Steve with his breadth of Rebornpipes experience.  Steve’s reply was short: “Dal, it really looks like horn or maybe bone – not seen one like that before.”  When Steve hasn’t seen something, that’s unusual.  With either material, it means this tenon was hand fashioned and out of the ordinary.  It could indicate a bit of age.The next question comes with the nomenclature and the band, which appears to be silver plated.  The left side of the shank has stamped in slanted text, ‘Best Briar Pipe’ which ends with the e’s tail reversing and forming a line underscoring the entire nomenclature.  I’ve never seen this before either.  Nothing with this name came up in searches in Pipedia.com, Pipephil.eu, or in my ‘go to’ pipe bible, ‘Who Made That Pipe’ by Herb Wilczak & Tom Colwell.I did find what I would call a secondary reference to a ‘Best Briar’ looking for clues in the repository of information at Rebornpipes.com.  The pipe case was labeled Best Briar with Gordon as the manufacturer.Pipedia’s information about Gordon/Gorden pipes came with some spelling discrepancy.  The listing was in the ‘British Pipe Brands and Makers’ section with this short text: Gorden – early 20th century brand of Samuel Gorden; Symbol Gordon in a lozenge.  Pipephil provided additional information along with examples of Gordon pipes and showing the stampings.  This was good information but the connection between the Gordon name and the Best Briar Pipe on my worktable is thin at best.The next question has to do with the stampings in the silver band.  The old English script appears to be S – L – W.  This simply appears to be an ornamental lettering without any of the normal assay markings that would identify dating, manufacturer, and city. Usually, silver bands are also marked with an indication of silver grade.  I do not see any of these.With more questions than answers, I decide to send Steve another note with the broad question of whether he has ever come across a ‘Best Briar Pipe’ and if he believes there might be a connection with this pipe and the English pipe maker, Gordon?

Steve’s responses helped to confirm that the provenance of the pipe on my table will remain a mystery for now, but Steve’s assessment has consistently been that the pipe seems to have some age to it:  I am unfamiliar with both the brand and the stamping on the silver. From the tenon and the horn stem it is definitely an old timer.

Regarding the Gordon connection, Steve wrote: Yeah I thought of that one but the key connection on it for me is the Gordon stamp. lacking from yours. The shape reminded me of a German pipe I did for Paresh years ago now – the shape is very close. Have fun with it!

With questions remaining about the origins of this pipe, a survey of the general condition of the Paneled Apple is good.  Upon closer inspection, the chamber appears to have been put into service, I’m guessing, only once.  The chamber wall is darkened in the lower one quarter of the bowl.  The rim has some roughness to it which should clean up easily.  The stummel has a few small dents in it, but generally, in good shape.  The horn stem with the horn/bone tenon is rough but will shine up nicely.

To begin, the silver band is removed easily for cleaning and put aside for now.Only one pipe cleaner was necessary to show that the stem is clean.The chamber is lightly darkened with almost no indication of carbon buildup.A quick scraping with the Savinelli Fitsall Tool confirms this.  This is followed by sanding the chamber with 240 paper wrapped around the Sharpie Pen.Equally in good condition was the internals of the stummel.  One cotton but and one pipe cleaner was all that was needed.Next, the stummel is cleaned using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and a cotton pad. After the scrubbing, the bowl is rinsed with tap water. The cleaning does well removing grime from the briar surface.After the cleaning, a closer look at the briar surface shows very minor scratching and I’m not sure it needs more than an application of compound and wax at this point to spruce it up.The cleaning also reveals roughness on the internally tapered beveled rim.The rim is addressed first.  Using 380 sanding paper, the beveled rim is cleaned up.  A piece of wood is used to back the sanding paper to maintain a sharp, distinctive bevel.  A rounded bevel is not wanted.After the 380-grade paper, the beveled rim is then sanded using the full regimen of 9 micromesh pads.The results of the sanding of the rim bevel brought out the grain very nicely.Since the micromesh results were so good at bringing out greater distinction and contrast in the grain, the decision is made to continue the micromesh process with the entire Paneled stummel.  First, wet sanding starts with pads 1500 to 2400.   Following this, dry sanding utilizes pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  I like the results.  The stummel already looked good.  This sanding brought out more grain distinction.Without pause, the micromesh pads are next applied to the horn stem.  Wet sanding starts with pads 1500 to 2400.  This is followed with dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000.  Between each set of three pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to help condition and refresh the stem. The horn grain comes out nicely during the micromesh process.After mounting a cotton cloth buffing wheel on the rotary tool, the speed is set at about 40% full power.  Blue Diamond compound is next applied to the reunited stem and stummel.A felt cloth is used next to wipe the stem and stummel to remove the compound dust in preparation for applying the wax.To bring out the subtle hues of the grain, Mark Hoover’s Before & After Restoration Balm is applied to the stummel.  After putting a small amount of the Balm on my finger, the Balm is worked into the briar.  The texture of the Balm starts as a cream like consistency and then thickens as it is applied.  After applying the Balm, the stummel is set aside for about 15 minutes for the Balm to be absorbed.After the time has elapsed, the stummel is wiped with a microfiber cloth to remove the excess Balm and to buff up the surface shine.  It looks great!Next, the silver band needs to be mounted and cleaned. First, to mount the band a small amount of regular CA glue is placed on the end of a toothpick.  I then coat the inside of the band with a thin line of glue. With the lettering on the top and with the band on the work cloth, while the glue is still wet, the shank is then pressed down into the band.  A small amount of CA glue is used so it does not squeeze out the sides of the band and adhere to the briar.  That would be a pain to clean up at this point.Cleaning would have been easier had I done this in reverse of mounting, but not impossible.  With a cotton pad a small amount of Tarnish Remover is used to wipe the silver band.  After wiping and scrubbing a bit, the solution is rinsed off with cool tap water.The band is dried and it looks good.The next step is to apply Blue Diamond compound to buff up the silver band.  Another cotton cloth buffing wheel dedicated to applying Blue Diamond to metals is mounted on the rotary tool.  The speed is set at about 40% full power.  During the application of the compound care is given to avoid buffing over the briar but staying on the silver metal.  Running over the briar can stain the wood black which is the color of the residue produced by the applying compound to the metal.  The results are great.  Onward!Before applying the final wax, Daryn was descriptive in our communications about previous pipes he had acquired which still had ghosting which was not what he liked.  To make sure the internal briar of this Best Briar Pipe is fresh and ghost free, a kosher salt and alcohol soak is used.  To start, a cotton ball is stretched and twisted to form a ‘wick’ which is inserted into the mortise to the draft hole with the aid of a stiff wire.  The cotton ‘wick’ serves to draw the oils and tars out of the briar through the soaking process.Kosher salt is then poured into the bowl and the stummel is placed in an egg carton with the rim and shank end roughly parallel.  Kosher salt is used because it leaves no aftertaste.  Isopropyl 99% then fills the chamber with a large eye dropper until it surfaces over the salt.  After a few minutes, the alcohol is topped after it is absorbed into the salt and wick.  The stummel is then set aside for several hours for the soak to do its thing.Well, I forgot to take a picture of the final cleaning after several hours of soaking in kosher salt and alcohol.  A cotton bud and a pipe cleaner confirmed that the inner briar was as clean as I can make it and refreshed.

Finally in the home stretch – carnauba wax is applied to the reunited stem and stummel.  After mounting another cotton cloth wheel to the rotary tool, maintaining the same 40% speed, the wax is applied to the briar and horn stem (avoiding the silver band).  After application of the wax is complete, a microfiber cloth is used to give the pipe a rigorous hand buffing to remove excess wax and to raise the shine.This was a quick refresh of this Best Briar Pipe for Daryn. I did the refresh work before my wife and I hooked up the R-pod travel trailer and headed into the Colorado Rocky Mountains to camp at Ouray for a week.  I enjoyed doing the write up surrounded by an unbelievable vista of God’s creation and sat next to a cascading stream that formed only minutes earlier coming out of the subterranean mountain stream falls in Box Canyon and flowed down past where we were camped.When I started on this Best Briar Pipe commissioned by Daryn, I thought that the pipe already looked good.  As almost always is the case, a little TLC applied to a good-looking pipe results in a great looking pipe.  The diminutive Paneled Apple showcases beautiful briar in each of its 4 panels with much bird’s eye and straight grain.  The horn stem is classic – it gives a rustic, earthy feel.  The silver band ties the ensemble together with a touch of class.  Daryn commissioned this pipe and will have the first opportunity to claim it in The Pipe Store benefitting the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  Thanks for joining me!

3 thoughts on “Refreshing a Vintage ‘Best Briar Pipe’ Horn Stem Paneled Apple

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