The next pipe is another treasure from the prized St. Louis Lot of 26 which has produced several pipes that have made their way to the collections of new stewards. The pipe on the worktable is marked with an arrow.I have shared the story several times as these pipes have come to the worktable. In December of 2018, my son, Josiah, who was studying at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis, saw this Lot of pipes in a local antique store. Josiah texted me in Bulgaria where we were still living, sending pictures, and asking if I was interested in the following deal. He wanted to split the cost of the Lot with me on one condition: that I would choose one pipe in the Lot as a Christmas present from him – a deal I could not refuse. I claimed the French EP Champion House Pipe in the center and the rest of the pipes made their way to the ‘For “Pipe Dreamers” ONLY!’ collection for pipe men and women to commission benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria. This is pipeman Mark’s second commission. Mark found out about The Pipe Steward from Darren, a member of the Pennsylvania based Chester County Cigar Club. Mark is based in North Carolina with his family. Mark’s first commission, a Whitehall Gulfstream came out nicely (see: Bringing Life to a Whitehall Gulf Stream Imported Briar Sculpted Dublin). The next pipe is unbranded, but marked with an Italy COM. Here are pictures of Mark’s second commission that called his name. The stamping, ITALY, is found on the lower side of the stem, parallel with the stem facing.The scalloped rustication is distinctive and the smooth briar panels to me, ‘bake the cake’ along with the classy lines of the gently tapering stem. The grain of the smooth briar ‘finger pad’ panels should pop after cleaning, sanding, and polishing. The chamber has very thick cake build-up which indicates that this pipe was well loved and used, but not maintained in a proper manner. As I’m looking at the chamber observing the thickness of the cake, a thought hits me that this pipe might have a Meerschaum lining. What causes me to question this is the uniformity of the inner ring of ‘cake’. The area between the arrows is what looks like a possible Meer-lining beneath the very thick lava over the rim and cake in the chamber. I had listed this pipe in the Dreamers section for some time as being a rusticated Billiard. A healthy Meerschaum lining will be like frosting on the cake. If this is a Meerschaum lining, the lack of maintenance is still not good. Meerschaum needs no cake at all. The growth of cake on Meerschaum could be detrimental causing the Meerschaum to crack. I’ll clean the chamber gingerly to determine what is beneath the buildup.The stem has some light chatter on the button and oxidation. To start the refreshing of this Italian Rusticated Billiard, the stem’s airway is cleaned using pipe cleaners and isopropyl 99% alcohol.Next, to address the oxidation, the stem is given a 24-hour soak of ‘Before & After’ Extra Strength Deoxidizer, a product of Mark Hoover (www.Lbepen.com).After the time of soaking, the fluid is drained off and the stem is briskly rubbed with a cotton cloth to remove the raised oxidation. I wasn’t able to remove much with the cloth, so 0000 grade steel wool is used next to remove the raised oxidation.After using the steel wool, these pictures show the residual, deep oxidation remaining after the soak. Further sanding will be necessary to address this.To condition the vulcanite, Paraffin oil is used. The mineral oil is thoroughly applied to the stem and the stem is set aside to absorb the oil.Now, carefully excavating the cake build up in the chamber is next. Care must be given to safeguard the Meerschaum lining if there is a lining to protect! To do this, I do not use the regular Pipnet Reaming Kit, but go directly to scraping the chamber wall with the Savinelli Fitsall Tool. After a initial scraping, what appears to be the white of Meerschaum is peeking through.After some scraping, we’re definitely looking a Meer-lining. There are some small chips on the rim.Continuing with the Fitsall Tool, the carbon cake is scraped off the Meerschaum.Following the scraping, the chamber is sanded with 220 grade paper. The sanding does a good job removing all the vestiges of carbon build up.In the picture below, the chamber is darkened, but this is not a problem. After running my finger over the Meerschaum, it is smooth. A visual inspection doesn’t uncover any problems. The only issue I see is the chipping on the rim.Turning now to the cleaning of the external surface, undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap is used with a cotton pad to scrub the rusticated surface. The rim has lava overflow crust remaining. A bristled toothbrush is also used to work on the rough surface and a brass wired brush to work on the rim.Using the brass brush, care is taken not to ‘grind’ the Meerschaum rim too much – gentle is the name of the game.Very lightly, a knife edge is used to scrape the hardened lava caked on the rim. Again, I scrape gently and avoid gouging the Meerschaum with the edge. Along with the knife edge, my thumbnail also helps in the effort.The stummel is then taken to the sink and rinsed thoroughly. I keep the stummel inverted so as to not flood the chamber with water. The cleaning goes well, but there is lava caked on the Meerschaum rim and it will not give.Before dealing with the carbon on the Meerschaum, a sharp dental probe digs out the lava crust in the rustication crevasses.Next, using 220 grade paper, the Meerschaum rim is carefully and slowly sanded. The picture below shows the painstaking work cleaning the impacted carbon filling the edge between the rusticated briar and the Meerschaum. The edge of a pocketknife is also carefully used to scrape the edges. Sanding also helped to even out the chips that were evident before.It took some time, but I love the look of clean Meerschaum contrasting with the briar. A Meerschaum lined briar pipe does not need a cake to protect it. It should be kept clean of buildup. The Meer-lined briar may also be used repeatedly, as with block Meerschaum pipes. The Meerschaum is a nice perk and increases the desirability of the pipe.The cleaning of the external rusticated surface did a good job. During the cleaning of the rim, the cleaning also made visible a chip on the right side of the outer rim. The lines in the next picture frame the chip. Before proceeding, the chip needs to be patched. By mixing briar dust and regular CA glue, briar putty is created for the patch material. After placing some scotch tape on the plastic disk, a small amount of briar dust is placed on the disk. Next to it a small amount of CA glue is placed.Using a toothpick, briar dust is drawn into the CA glue and mixed. More is drawn and mixed until the putty thickens to about the viscosity of molasses. The putty is then placed on the rim chip. The stummel is then set aside allowing the patch to cure. The downside of the briar putty patch is that it will be darker than the surrounding briar. This is the tradeoff with its durability and strength.With the stummel on the side, attention is now on the stem. Fresh pictures are taken of the bit. The upper bit is in great shape. Small compressions will easily sand out.The lower bit has chatter on the button lip. To address this, the heating method is used first. Using the flame of a Bic lighter, the button is painted with the flame to heat the vulcanite. As the vulcanite heats, it expands to regain the original form of the stem – or to some degree. The before and after pictures show that the chatter has been minimized a good bit and should be erased with sanding.Using a square needle file, the button is refreshed. This is followed by sanding the bit and button with 220 grade paper.Next, to address the latent oxidation in the stem and small scratches, the sanding is expanded to the entire stem. A plastic disk is also used when sanding nears the stem facing to guard against shouldering the edges. My thumb was also used as a guard for the COM on the lower stem facing.After the heavy-duty sanding is completed, the stem is wet sanded using 600 grade paper. This is followed by applying 0000 grade steel wool to the stem. Again, the thumb guards the ITALY COM.Continuing with the sanding/polishing of the stem, micromesh pads are applied to the stem beginning with wet sanding with pads 1500 to 2400, then dry sanding with pads 3200 to 4000 and 6000 to 12000. Between each set of 3 pads, Obsidian Oil is applied to condition and protect the vulcanite from oxidation. The pop emerges through the process – nice. Turning now to the stummel, the patch to build out the chip in the rim edge is fully cured.A flat needle file is used to file down the patch material flush with the briar surface.A sharp needle file also helps to remove debris from the rim rustication crevasses. There was still some old lava crust here and there.Inspecting the rime, dark and light areas on the rim give an unevenness which I don’t like. The rim is lightly sanded to work on rectifying this.First, 220 grade paper sands the rim. The top peeks of the rustication are sanded bypassing the crevasses.220 is followed by using 470 grade then a finer 600 grade.A dye stick is used to touch up areas that are lighter.Next, the full set of 9 micromesh pads are used. The stummel is dry sanded starting with pads 1500 to 2400, then 3200 to 4000 and finishes with pads 6000 to 12000. Between each pad, to clean the dust and give the pads more grip, the stummel is wiped with a wet cotton cloth. The micromesh process darkened the briar, and it looks good. To deepen the natural hues, Mark Hoover’s ‘Before & After’ Restoration Balm is generously applied to the rusticated briar. I take special care to work the Balm into the crevasses of the rustication as well. This should even out the presentation and darken the rough trough briar. After application of the Balm, the stummel is set aside for about 15 minutes for the Balm to be absorbed.After 20 minutes, the stummel is wiped/buffed with a dedicated microfiber cloth that only is used with the Restoration Balm. The reason for this is that the cloth acts as a quick buff cloth for other pipes benefiting from the Balm.As it happens, earlier on I was so focused on the stummel restoration and the rim work that I forgot a very important part of the cleaning process – the internals! Ugh. Well, because the stummel is Meer-lined, doing a cotton ball and alcohol soak to help with the internal cleaning is not possible. So, the process of cleaning is with cotton buds and pipe cleaners moistened with isopropyl 99%. A small dental spoon excavates a boat load of gunk off the mortise walls. The elongated shank collected quite a bit and I noticed near the draught hole, where the Meerschaum begins, a great deal of gunk was excavated.Thankfully, after much excavation and many cotton buds, the buds begin to emerge lighter. Done!Now, on the home stretch. With the stem and stummel reunited, a cotton cloth buffing wheel is mounted on the rotary tool and with the speed set at about 40% full power, Blue Diamond compound, a fine abrasive, is applied to the stem and stummel. For the stummel, the main concentration of the compound buffing was on the 4 smooth briar ‘finger pads’ encircling the bowl, the smooth briar ringing the upper bowl, just below the rim, the smooth panel on the shank underside and the ring of smooth briar ringing the shank facing. A very light application of compound is applied to the large, scalloped rustication. It is kept light so that the compound does not compact in the crevasses – a bear to clean.After application of the compound, a felt cloth is used to wipe/buff the compound dust off the surface. This cleaning is done in preparation for application of the wax.Another cotton cloth wheel is mounted on the rotary tool at the same speed and carnauba wax is applied next to the entire pipe. After the wax is applied, the pipe is given a rigorous hand buffing to remove excess wax.This unbranded Rusticated Meerschaum Lined Billiard of Italy came out great. The scalloped rustication in contrast with the smooth briar ‘finger pads’ is striking. The concentrated grain displayed in these pads is nice. Discovering the Meerschaum lining was a surprise, but a welcomed one. The Meerschaum contrasting with the rusticated rim is another nice touch. The overall lines of the pipe running down the elongated shank then transitioning into a classy slightly tapered stem is eye pleasing. This pipe promises to offer a new steward great fellowship for years to come. Mark commissioned this pipe and as the commissioner will have the first opportunity to claim him from the Pipe Steward Store benefiting the Daughters of Bulgaria – helping women and girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited.
Please pray for the people of Ukraine