Bringing Life to a Whitehall Gulf Stream Imported Briar Sculpted Dublin

The next pipe on the worktable came from the US auction block in January of 2018, from a seller in Warsaw, New York.  I was attracted to this pipe because of the distinctive sculpted rustication.  The canted Dublin bowl and slight taper of the stem was also attractive to me.  The final bid favored me, and the pipe found its way to the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” ONLY!’ collection for pipe men and women to commission benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria.  Here are the pictures I saw that day that drew me in. On the upper side of the oval shank smooth briar panel is a crisp stamp, GULF STREAM [over a seriously ghosting] ‘Whitehall’ in a fancy script.  On the lower side panel is stamped, IMPORTED BRIAR.This Whitehall Gulf Stream also got pipeman Mark’s attention as well.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know Mark in our communications back and forth.  He and his wife are in North Carolina with Lexi, their Border Collie, where Mark brings home the bacon as a software developer.  Mark described himself as being relatively new to tobacco pipes and I was pleased to hear how a common relationship we have is what brought him to The Pipe Steward.  Here is what Mark wrote:

I was introduced to your website by a good friend whom I believe has commissioned several pipes from you in the past — Darren, of the Chester County Cigar Club…. I’m still relatively new to tobacco pipes, but as you might guess have become enamored with them after spending many evenings smoking with Darren. I really enjoy reading through your posts detailing the restoration process and look forward to seeing what you can do with this pipe!

Pipeman Darren, of Pennsylvania, who introduced Mark to my ‘Help Me!’ baskets, probably holds the record for the most commissions from The Pipe Steward!  I appreciated so much one batch of Darren’s commissions which he designated as special initiatory ‘coming of age’ gifts for his children.  One of those commissions that stands out to me was for his daughter (Breathing New Life into a German VAUEN 6294 P-Lip Saddle Billiard for a Special Young Lady).The other of Darren’s commissions that took me way out of my comfort zone was the restoration of a ceramic Tyrolean which Darren received as a special gift from an ‘elder statesman’ of the Chester County Cigar Club (which I have been assured, receive into their fellowship pipe smokers as well!).  That restoration was a challenge, but came out exceedingly well and even required the skill of my wife who made the exquisite tassels needed for all legit Tyroleans (The Restoration of a Special Gift – A 1761 Minstrel Bard Tyrolean of Austria).  I appreciate so much Mark’s patience waiting for his two initial commissions to make it to the worktable.  During the waiting period, as what happens with many commissioners, he added 2 more pipes to his commissions, each benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria, helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited – a work that my wife and I started during the 15 years we lived and served in Bulgaria.

Mark’s first pipe on the worktable is a Whitehall Gulfstream.  My first dip into understanding better the origins of this pipe takes me to a very short Whitehall article in Pipedia which simply says, “Whitehall pipes were made by Ben Wade in England, some in Italy.”  The examples provided (courtesy of Doug Valitchka) are helpful on two counts.  First, the example shows the same stylistic carved rustication characteristics, and secondly, the nomenclature appears to have the same fancy style lettering as the Whitehall on the table.  One difference, however, is that I see no ‘W’ stamping on the stem of the pipe on the worktable.The information from Pipedia is broad and leaves questions.  The next stop is to Pipephil.eu where the following panel shows two examples marked with the COM, Italy.  Again, there is a match in the script style.  The two countries of origin listed are the US and England.  The US is added to the English and Italian origins.At this point, from these two main sources of information, Whitehall is described either as an English product of Ben Wade, Italian or from the US.  The third primary source of information I go to is ‘Who Made That Pipe?’ by Herb Wilczak and Tom Colwell.  The Whitehall entry lists the maker/seller as CIVIC CO or BEN WADE and only England as the origin.The ‘Civic Co.’ according to Pipedia (see: https://pipedia.org/wiki/Civic) is described in this entry:  “The Civic Company Ltd of London was formed in 1921 out of the Imperial Tobacco Co. (Fancy Goods Department) Ltd which was located in Fulham Palace Road Hammersmith…. In 1928 Civic formed a key element in the merger with other producers and retailers that formed Cadogan Investments which still trades today.”   Along with the Civic Co. this merger also included the Oppenheimer Group and their associated companies.  The merger was done to create cooperation between the various companies (see: LINK)

This information is interesting, but only seems to spread the ‘peanut butter’ thinner – Civic was/is an English manufacturer along with Ben Wade that produced Whitehall or perhaps, totally different Whitehall lines….

Continuing to mine for more relevant information, the research takes a turn and I find two interesting threads in the Pipes Magazine Forum using the keyword search, Whitehall.  What I discover is the same tenor of discussion regarding the tenuousness of Whitehall origins.  The first comment comes from ‘mikethompson’ in a November, 2019 thread (LINK):

I picked up a Whitehall pipe to clean up, and it looks like it should be fairly straightforward with no big surprises. I didn’t / don’t know much about the Whitehall brand so I dig a little digging.  The Whitehall pipedia page is hilariously short, only one line. It did say that they were made by Ben Wade in either Britain or Italy. The Ben Wade page made no mention of Whitehall or had any shape charts I could compare it to. So if anyone has a chart they could post up, or dating help that would be much appreciated.  This pipe doesn’t have a stinger, but it does seem to have a metal tube running through the shank. Maybe that is indicative of its age? The only markings are Whitehall and Imported Briar.

As the thread progresses, comments are made from differing contributors’ suspicions of a Ben Wade origin for a Whitehall line.  However, ‘greeneyes’ adds this helpful information:

I’m a collector of Ben Wade pipes and have been corresponding with Jon Guss in an attempt to document some of its history. Jon has compiled much information from trade periodicals and it’s true that Ben Wade made a Whitehall, or at least they advertised as much in the 1946-47 periodicals. I can tell you that I’ve never seen a Ben Wade Whitehall (on the internet or anywhere else), and that the pipes that are generally identified as being made by Ben Wade, often made in Italy, very likely are not Ben Wade products. Here’s Jon’s (jguss) post on the matter from an earlier thread.

What I glean from this post is that the Whitehall on the worktable probably is not of Ben Wade or English origin.  The dating of 1946-47 seems too early for the Whitehall Gulf Stream we have.  This post also raises the question whether there is any connection at all between a Ben Wade Whitehall and those of Italian origin.

The thread discussion logically began to voice another observation – the ‘IMPORTED BRIAR’ stamping was also a tip that the pipe origin was either of US origin or made in Italy for export to the US.  The key is not the word ‘IMPORTED’ but ‘BRIAR’ – used primarily in the US and Bruyere generally in Europe.  Another sentiment expressed was that Whitehall was a very commonly used name so that several manufacturers could use it.

Another earlier 2015 ‘Whitehall’ thread started by Jon Guss was already mentioned above in the post by ‘greeneyes’.  Jon Guss adds this:

Whitehall Products was definitely an American tobacco company, originally in Helmetta, NJ. They made cigarettes, snuff and smoking tobacco. They also sold pipes, which are said to have been sourced from England and Italy. Eventually, I think, they merged and moved.  But Whitehall is a world-famous name, of course, as the location of most of the important buildings from which the British ruled the Empire. Many pipe manufacturers used the name, including Civic in the thirties and forties, Ben Wade by the late fifties, and Philip Weisberg by the early sixties. All unrelated usages, I suspect, of a common and well-known place name. Rather like calling a pipe Wall Street or Fisherman’s Wharf; certainly not trademarkable.

This information I believe, is getting down to the core of our search and how to view the Whitehall on the table.  Jon Guss states that Whitehall was from an American company that distributed many product lines including pipes that were manufactured in various places.  The key to what he says is that Whitehall was used by many pipe manufacturers because of the well-known place name.  If one does an online image search for Whitehall pipes, one will find that there are many Whitehall pipes out there – predominantly with Italy stamps or no stamping.  I haven’t seen any English COMs in my searches, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t out there somewhere.  It is probable that the Whitehalls stamped with ‘IMPORTED BRIAR’ with no COM stamping were manufactured in the US.  The ‘IMPORTED BRIAR’ pipes marked with Italy, were manufactured in Italy, but intended for export to the US.

The 2019 Whitehall thread referenced earlier has a post from ‘snagstangl’ (Dec 1, 2019) that seems to corroborate my hypothesis:

I was digging around at the Dr. Grabow forum :Whitehall pipe question – https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/drgrabows/whitehall-pipe-question-t9891-s10.html.  It says that Whitehall bought most of its stuff, pipes from Mastercraft. It would make sense if it were mostly a bulk re-seller stamping the name on bulk lots of pipes. That would explain pipes being all over the place with production location stamps. France, Italy, England, US, Imported Briar.

I have one more pawn to push down the board.  The Whitehall’s nomenclature also includes ‘Gulf Stream’.  A quick image search with ‘Whitehall Gulf Stream’ shows several pipes bearing common characteristics.  All have the large carving motif like the pipe on the worktable (which Christopher Huff calls a, ‘rocky mosaic pattern’), all have ‘Imported Briar’ and none have a COM stamping.  Here is a collage of Gulf Streams that I found:To what does Gulf Stream refer?  I found no reference relating the UK Whitehall location with the word Gulf Stream. Therefore, could it possibly refer to the Atlantic Ocean current running up the east coast of the US, or possibly the Gulf Stream horse racing park in Florida?  These questions, we’ll have to leave to someone else.

Even though much of this ‘evidence’ is anecdotal, my thoughts are that the Whitehall on the table was most likely manufactured in the US possibly by Mastercraft for the American Tobacco Company that distributed the pipes throughout the US.  The Gulf Stream branded pipes of Whitehall showcase the ‘rocky mosaic pattern’ and is a very attractive pipe in my estimation.

With a better knowledge and appreciation for the mystery surrounding the Whitehall name, I take a closer look at the Whitehall Gulf Stream on the table. The chamber has very light cake buildup and the wide rim has a good bit of ‘lava’ flow.The ‘rocky mosaic’ carving looks great.  Cleaning and some sprucing up is all that it should need.  It would make sense that fills would be blended in the rough briar crevasses where they are not prominent.The stem has knee-deep oxidation – the deep olive/army green oxidation is difficult to bring out.  There are a few tooth compressions on the upper and lower bit.To begin the restoration, the stem’s airway is cleaned with a single pipe cleaner moistened with isopropyl 99% alcohol.Next, to address the heavy oxidation of the vulcanite stem, Mark Hoover’s, Before & After Extra Strength Deoxidizer is used.  I have been using Briarville’s Oxidation Remover for some time and Mark Hoover (www.Lbeben.com) sent me a sample of his Extra Strength product to try out.  This stem will be a tall order for any product to raise fully the oxidation and not need additional sanding, but I thought I would give Mark’s product a try.A used sushi container my wife and I emptied a few nights before serves well as a reservoir for the Deoxidizer.  I like the shape because it allows the Deoxidizer to spread out and be relatively shallow so other pipes can soak at the same time.  The Whitehall stem sinks slowly into the thick, mucus-like liquid which Mark has said contains all-organic ingredients but are kept close to the chest 😊.The stem soaks for a full 24 hours in the Deoxidizer.  After fishing out the stem and allowing it a few seconds to drain. An oily residue is visible dripping off the stem into the liquid.After using my glove clad fingers to squeegee off the thick fluid, this picture shows the raised oxidation.  I go to work on the stem using first a cotton cloth to briskly rub the stem to wipe off the raised oxidation, but cloth moves very little.Next, I use 000-grade steel wool.  It takes some time and elbow grease, but the main surface level finally gives way.  However, with the naked eye I can still see deeper oxidation in the stem.I work Paraffin Oil into the rubber/vulcanite stem to help condition it.  Paraffin Oil is a mineral oil which I use.  I do not use vegetable or animal oils as they can become rancid.Putting the stem aside, I begin the cleaning process of the Whitehall stummel by clearing the light carbon cake buildup in the chamber.  The Savinelli Fitsall tool is first used to scrape the chamber walls and then the chamber is sanded using 240 grade sanding paper.A quick inspection of the chamber reveals healthy briar with no heating issues.Next, using undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap, the bowl is scrubbed with a cotton pad and a toothbrush to get into the craggy cuts of the mosaic.To address the caked lava over the rim, a brass wired brush helps by adding some muscle to the scrubbing without being too invasive with the briar.The Savinelli Fitsall Tool’s edge also helps to scrape the gunk of the rim after the soap softens it.Next, the stummel is taken to the sink, and using hot water the internals are scrubbed using shank brushes and liquid anti-oil dish washing soap.  After the scrubbing, the bowl is thoroughly rinsed and brought back to the worktable.Continuing with the internal cleaning, cotton buds and pipe cleaners are used with isopropyl 99% alcohol.  Well, it doesn’t happen often, but the internals are relatively clean, and it doesn’t take much effort.Looking now at the results of the cleaning, the finish pretty much has come off the briar surface.  The rim cleaned up nicely leaving only some of the internal rim edge dark from fire charring which should be erased with sanding.  The rim shows scratches and somewhat of a worn aft edge.The finish has come off in large measure leaving little in the way of contrast between the craggy carved crevasses and the plateaus of smooth briar over the mosaic.First, before sanding, covering the very thin Whitehall stamping on the upper shank is important.  Using painters’ tape the upper and lower stampings are covered.  This may leave a bit of an unevenness in the briar hue, but protecting the nomenclature is more important in my book.With the nomenclature protected, the stummel is sanded/polished with micromesh pads.  Starting with pads 1500 to 2400, then pads 3200 to 4000 and finally pads 6000 to 12000, the stummel is sanded. Between each pad, the bowl is wiped with a wet cotton cloth to clear sanding dust and give the next pad more traction.  For the last two pads, the protective tape is removed to polish the entire panel areas to help blend the hues.  The plateau grain comes out beautifully during the micromesh process. After applying the micromesh sanding/polishing regimen, the decision is easily made to apply a dye primarily to darken the rougher carved crevasses to create more contrasting.  I stay with the tan motif of the original and apply a small amount of Fiebing’s Tan Leather Dye to a small section of a plateau and corresponding crevasse to test how the briar will respond.  It Tan Leather Dye will deepen the tan hue and give it a new pop and  also darken the crevasse.  I think it will look good.To open the briar grain to be more receptive to the dye, the stummel is warmed with the hot air gun.Instead of flaming the aniline dye which combusts the alcohol leaving the dye pigment in the grain – my normal approach when applying dye to smooth briar, I simply do a dye ‘wash’.  The reason for applying a wash instead of flaming is because flaming leaves a crust around the stummel which needs to be removed. I use Tripoli compound and the rotary tool to do this.  If using the ‘flame’ approach, I’m afraid that compound residue and flamed dye will be lodged in the crevasses and be a bear to remove. My main goal is to refresh the contrast and by simply applying the dye with a wash will achieve this.  Using a folded pipe cleaner, the entire stummel is painted with the dye.  A second coat is also applied for good measure.After the dye is applied, a cotton pad moistened with alcohol is used to wipe down the stummel.  This is to remove excess dye, to lighten the hue and to blend the new dye.This is followed by again applying the full set of 9 micromesh pads (avoiding nomenclature) to the stummel which only impacts the smooth briar on the plateaus and passes over the crevasses. This is done to further lighten the tan and to blend the dye with the natural briar hue.  Wow – I’m liking what I’m seeing.With the Whitehall stummel on the side, the stem is again the focus.  Another picture is taken against a darker background with the picture lightened to see what I can see with the naked eye – the residual deep oxidation.Before addressing the entire stem, the bit has some tooth compressions that need addressing.  The upper bit and button lip both have tooth compressions.  The lower bit has one main compression.  The heating method is the first thing to try to try to reduce the compressions.  This is done by painting the bit with a Bic lighter flame.  As the vulcanite heats, it expands to a degree to reclaim its original position.  The goal is to minimize the compressions so that only sanding is needed.  The before and after pictures show that the compressions have been reduced to some degree, but I’m afraid not enough. Upper:And lower:To patch the compressions, small drops of Medium-Thick CA (short for Cyanoacrylate) or super glue are applied.  A spray accelerator is used to hold the patches in place and to quicken the curing process.After the patches are thoroughly cured, flat and square needle files are used to file down the patches on the upper and lower bit.The filing is followed with 220 grade sanding paper to remove the file marks and to smooth the bit and button.Next, sanding with 220 grade sanding paper is expanded to the entire stem to address the deep oxidation.  A disk is used to guard against shouldering the stem facing – upper and lower.Continuing to smooth the stem, 470 grade paper is used to sand.Next, the stem is wet sanded with 600 grade paper, and this is followed with applying 0000 grade steel wool.Using the full regimen of micromesh pads, the stem is next wet sanded with pads 1500 to 2400.  Following this, the stem is dry sanded with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to the stem to condition it and to guard against future oxidation.  The stem is looking good. To continue to condition the vulcanite stem, Before & After Fine and extra Fine Polish is applied and does a good job.After putting a small amount of the Fine Polish on my fingers, the first polish is worked into the vulcanite.  After a few minutes of massaging the polish, it is wiped off with a paper towel.  Next, the same is done with the Extra Fine Polish and it’s wiped off after a few minutes.  The stem’s luster is enhanced by Mark Hoover’s product – it looks great.The stem and stummel are reunited and after a cotton cloth wheel is mounted on the rotary tool with speed at 40% full power, Blue Diamond compound is applied to the entire pipe.  A light application is applied to the stummel so that the compound doesn’t gunk up in the rougher briar in the crevasses.  To help with the stummel application, I rotate the stummel in my hand so that the wheel buffs with the flow of the sculpted crevasses.  The approach does a good job.  I like how the grain is crisply appearing on the smooth briar sculpted ‘rock’ faces.After application of the compound, the pipe is given a good wiping and buffing with a felt cloth to remove the compound dust collected on the surface.  I want the surface clean before application of the wax.The home stretch – next another buffing wheel is mounted on the rotary tool set at the same speed.  Carnauba wax is next applied to the stem and stummel.  Again, the wheel buffs down the flow of the crevasses.  After the application of wax, using a microfiber cloth, the pipe is given a rigorous hand buffing to remove excess wax and raise the shine.I enjoyed diving into the mysterious origins of this Whitehall Gulf Stream.  Understanding a pipe’s heritage helps to create a unique bond for stewards that follow.  The tan finish on the ‘rocky mosaic’ briar surface brought this pipe to life.  I enjoy the intricacies of the grain that have emerged over the smooth briar plateaus.  The rocky mosaic carving is pleasing to the eye and provides a nice texture in the hand.  The Dublin shape along with the sculpted briar landscape, provide an olde world rustic feel that I like.  Mark commissioned this pipe and will have the first opportunity to claim him in the Pipe Steward Store benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.  A picture from the start helps to remind us how far we’ve come.  Thanks for joining me!

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5 thoughts on “Bringing Life to a Whitehall Gulf Stream Imported Briar Sculpted Dublin

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