Sat on their park bench
– Simon & Garfunkel, Old Friends
Even a casual glance through the posts here at DadsPipes will quickly identify me as the vintage Brigham pipe fan that I am. I blame it on my father, who is, of course, not here to defend himself and therefore a safe target. His pipe collection, much of which now graces my pipe racks, consisted mainly of Brighams, made in his home town of Toronto from 1906 right up to 2001 when production moved to Italy.
In my mind, Brigham pipes are Everyman pipes – there was a Brigham to fit any budget, large or small. More importantly, they were quality pipes – even the lowly 1-Dot “Brigham Standard” pipe was built to last – and the Rock Maple filter system is one of the only pipe systems ever marketed that actually comes through on its promise of a bite-free smoke.
I look for older Brigham pipes whenever I go pipe hunting, and by now I can usually spot them at a distance. I chanced upon this pair of pipes during a recent visit to an antiques fair. Ironically, I almost missed them completely as, instead of being buried in the usual jumble of a crowded and poorly lit display cabinet, they were hiding in plain sight inside their original burgundy and gold pipe socks.
My heart skipped a beat as I slid the pipes from their socks and saw a pair of Brigham Norseman pipes. The series was produced from the late 1960’s through to 1980 and was comprised of larger, rusticated pipes with, as Brigham literature puts it, “Scandinavian flare”. I bought both pipes on the spot. Even though they were made in Toronto, only an hour from my home in Kitchener, ON, this was the first time I’d seen examples of the Norseman series outside of old Brigham catalogs or pipe forum posts. Thankfully, those same old catalogs allow me to date this pair of pipes to the late 1970’s. You can see them advertised here in this excerpt from the 1978 Brigham catalog.
Both pipes are stamped “Brigham” over “Made in Canada” on the smooth portion under the shank, along with a shape number – the egg-shaped pipe is stamped “9W4”, while the polygonal pipe is stamped “9W7”. The stems of both pipes are pinned with a pattern of three horizontally-aligned brass “dots”, with the centre dot larger than the outer two.
The pipes arrived showing signs of light use. The 9W4 had been more heavily smoked than its partner, and had a fair bit of lava caught up in the dips and hollows of the plateau rim. The rustication of both stummels was dirty, and the stems were oxidized to a yellow/green colour. The buttons on both stems had tooth dents that would have to be repaired. Like most estate Brighams, I found old Rock Maple filters (quickly discarded) in the aluminum filter holders/tenons. Thankfully, the aluminum was still in great shape.
I cleaned out the lava crust from the 9W4’s plateau using a brass bristle tire brush and then used my Castleford reamer to clear the tobacco chambers on both pipes back to bare briar.
I dropped the stems into an Oxyclean soak to raise the oxidation. While they soaked, I used pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to clear the crud out of the shanks and airways. Once the internals were clean, the stummels were scrubbed with Murphy’s Oil Soap to remove the last of the crud from the plateau and lift the dust and dirt from the rustication, and set up for an overnight salt and alcohol treatment.
The next day I pulled the stems from the Oxyclean bath and scrubbed away the loose oxidation with 0000 steel wool and Magic Eraser. It took a bit of work to get the discolouration out of the carved rings decorating each stem, but eventually I had black pipe stems again.
Now it was time to deal with the tooth dents and damaged buttons. I gave the areas to be repaired a quick sanding with 220-grit sandpaper to give the patches something to grip, and then applied thick CA glue mixed with charcoal powder to build up the missing bits. When the glue had cured, I used needle files and a variety of sandpapers and sanding sponges to shape, level and smooth the patches.
A full course of micromesh sanding pads removed the scratches left behind by the repairs and polished the vulcanite to a nice high sheen.
By this time, the salt and alcohol treatment had pulled the remaining tars (and their associated odours) from the stummels. I dumped out the salt and ran a few pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol through the stummels to clean out any remaining salt and loose tars.
Then it was time to take the pipes to the buffer for a final polish with White Diamond compound and several coats of Carnauba wax. These Brigham Norseman pipes are looking like new again. I am proud to add them to my collection alongside their direct descendant, the 1980 Brigham President Freehand I worked on in this post a year ago.
Here are the finished pipes. Thanks for looking and until next time, Happy Piping!