Helps For Newbies

Even though I’m a sexagenarian, I am a newbie to the universe of pipe collecting and restoration.  One of the things I discovered reading the blogs of master restorers, is that often they have been at their trade so long that many of their practices have become intuitive and therefore, in restoration write-ups, steps involved in processes can be assumed.  For instance, “I applied dark brown stain to the stummel” actually includes many steps and for a newbie, these steps often are unclear. For this reason, I have appreciated the patience of Steve Laug, my primary mentor, whose write-ups on Reborn Pipes are methodical, repetitious, and explain both the restorer’s thought processes and the resulting actions formulated and executed in the restoration. Mistakes, I have found repeatedly, are good to record because knowing what NOT to do is as valuable as a list of best practices!  Newbies make lots of great mistakes.  Newbies, unbelievably, may also discover something helpful for others because they don’t know the customary answers or practices – and improvise in a tenderfoot sort of way.  My essay on the use of the Dremel surprisingly, was one such example.  I have found the patience of and welcome of those in the ‘guild of restorers’ to be a great encouragement.  Along with Steve, I have appreciated Charles Lemon’s Dad’s Pipes and his uber willingness to answer newbie questions.  This page is for listing links and culled information that have been helpful to me, a newbie.  I’ve arranged things in a way that makes sense to me – and to you, too, I hope!  I hope also, that what follows may help other newbies as well.  If you have other suggestions of significantly helpful sites, solutions, or explanations…, please share them and  leave them in the comments below!

Getting Started:

  • Ten Steps to Restoring Pipes for Beginners – The first link Steve sent when I started dabbling.
  • Reburbishing Supply List – A good place to start. At the beginning you don’t know what you need to do a basic restoration.  I added more tools and materials as I went along when I ran into more complex issues and as I grew in my understanding.
  • eBay -Estate Pipes –  This is where my education of pipes began – names, shapes, markings, relative values of pipes and their names (high bids) and where I made my first estate purchase. Careful, it can be addicting! Also, many countries have their own eBay tents.  Living in Bulgaria, I also watch: eBay UK and eBay Germany.  For the whole enchilada, here’s a site listing the eBay universe – Mars has applied but licensing has yet to be granted.
  • Pipe Composition and Toward a Definition of Pipe Parts – This is a comprehensive listing of shapes, parts, anatomy of the bowl, stem materials…, that Steve put together on Reborn Pipes.  It encompasses much of what is described below, but I put it here to give a good concise orientation to the newbie starting out.
  • Its all about the aesthetics, isn’t it? Allan Chestnutt – This is a re-post on Reborn Pipes, that I bookmarked early on.  It’s a short article by Allan, but it challenged me regarding the ethics of pipe restoration – the need of doing an excellent job and not deceptively pushing on sub-standard workmanship to someone else.
  • J.H. Lowe Co. – Before long, you’re going to need to buy a replacement stem or a band for a special restoration.  I’ve emailed Tim West at Lowes with my needs, and he has helped me figure out the correct product.  I’m sure there are many other good online stores, but Tim’s wisdom and experience adds an invisible value!

Research:

  • Pipedia – The first place to go to when beginning research.  It contains a lot of information and additional links.
  • Pipephil – The second place I go.  The focus is on identification of pipes using nomenclature (identifying markings) and stem stampings.  The site has a lot of supporting documentation, manufacturers locations, pictures, etc.
  • Chris’ Pipe Pages – This site specializes in old catalogs, brochures and ads.  It’s helpful for finding pipes in their historical context, dating, etc.  I found the navigation in the site to be a bit jiky, where I had to manually add a ‘.htm’ in the browser to advance to the next page of a catalog.  Even so, really helpful information.
  • Wipo – Classifications – This site helps track down patent numbers and claims found in research.  This is helpful in identifying the dating.
  • TobaccoPipes.com – A store but has helpful information.
  • Who Made that Pipe? Is a book, currently out of print, by Herbert Wilczak and Thomas Colwell, Jr. and was published in 1997. One can find a paper-bound copy on eBay and Amazon, where I landed a copy (a bit pricey!). It is an alphabetical directory of the names of briar pipe made in the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as their makers and countries of origin.

Methodology: 

  • Read 100s of Restoration blogs – When I started, after I grew tired of looking a 100s of eBay estate pipes looking for new stewards, I read blog posting after blog posting.  Most of my reading was Reborn Pipes then I discovered Charles Lemon’s, Dad’s Pipes, and others. By reading and reading and reading I began to catch the flow and the logic of the flow.  When one first begins, it’s not easy putting the logical pieces together because you’re not sure what all the pieces are that need to be joined.  There are always aberrations to the logic and flow depending upon the needs of the specific pipe, but until you start ‘feeling’ the normal flow of a restoration you won’t fully grasp when you’ve walked into a burning building – or to use another euphemism, you’re over your head and don’t know it!
  • Mission Impossible Collaboration (Part 1 and Part 2) – This humorous take off of Tom Cruise’s, Mission Impossible, “If you should choose to accept the mission….” was a collaboration between Charles (Dad’s Pipes) and Steve (Reborn Pipes) where they were literally looking for a burning 4 alarm fire to walk into and then put out!  I include these posts because they showcase two master restorers doing the unimaginable in the midst of a ‘regular’ restoration.  That is, it helped me to grasp that even when the flow is disrupted by challenges needing special actions and creativity, these ‘bumps’ still exist within the normal flow of the restoration.  Like NASA’s response to the ailing Apollo 13, as in the Tom Hanks portrayal, Mission Control Director, Gene Kranz’s insistent and consistent message to stay on track: “Gentlemen, work the problem.”
  • New Dog, Old Tricks — Learning About Smoking Pipes – The author of this article begins by saying, “Get familiar with terminology so you don’t sound like a newbie.” Not only does he help by breaking down the anatomy of a pipe, he provides a step-by-step walk-through of how to evaluate a pipe’s provenance (origins) and condition.  This is helpful in the early stages of research as well as evaluation of how to approach a restoration project.

Shapes and Parts:

  • Pipedia – Pipe Shapes – This is the first place I go when trying to identify a shape. Bill Burney put the Pipes shape chart together.  Not only is it helpful to identify shapes, but Bill’s commentary brings in areas of debate over disagreements in the pipe community. Very helpful for research and knowing what you’re gazing at in front of you.
  • ThePipeGuys – This is a store, but they have a great tab, ‘Pipes 101’, which is a very helpful shapes chart with detailed descriptions.  Then, with a touch of marketing creativity, you click a button and see real pipes exemplifying that shape, which, of course, are available for your credit card’s consideration.
  • PipeSMOKE’s Guide to Pipe Shapes and Styles – Along with pipe shapes, this page describes stem styles.
  • Basic Parts of a Pipe – A picture with the anatomy of a pipe – its helpful to know the parts of a pipe to describe processes.
  • Anatomy of a Pipe – Another picture with some differences

Grains and Finishes:

Stem Cleaning:

Stem Materials:

  • Coming

Stem Repair: 

  • Coming

De-ghosting (stinkers):

  • Coming

Stummel Repair:

  • Coming

Staining:

Polishing:

  • Coming

Hallmarks – Silver & Gold

  • Coming

Bands

  • Coming

Measuring a Pipe

  • Coming

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