This Stanwell is one of the five additional pipes I purchased from the family that sold me the Danish Lot estate collection last spring. Presumably, these pipes were the go-to companions for their previous owner; keeping them in a quality leather pipe bag indicates a desire to have this selection of pipes close at hand.
The condition of this Stanwell Silver S when it arrived on the worktable certainly backed up my theory. It was very well used, but not abused. The rim was a cross-hatch of dents and scratches, with a thin layer of tars to spice things up. The stummel carried its own complement of handling marks and a few deeper dents. Then stem was in better overall shape, with only a few tooth dents showing under a layer of grime. The trademark silver Crowned S stamp was intact, but tarnished.
The pipe is stamped on the left shank “Stanwell” over “Reg’d No. 969-48” over “Silver S”, with “Made in Denmark” on the underside. The right shank is marked “Selected Briar” over the shape number, “09”. All the stamps are very worn but readable.
According to Pipedia, Stanwell’s Silver S line was the company’s highest grade of pipe until the line was discontinued. This pipe hails from the mid to late 1960’s, and the 09 shape is described by Bas Stevens as a “Freehand, slightly bent, triangular bowl, special design mouthpiece, by Sixten Ivarsson”. Despite its current condition, this was, and remains, a finely crafted pipe with pedigree.
The stem to shank fit was off – the shank and stem face didn’t quite register properly, as if the stem tenon was off-centre. My guess is that the stem is a replacement. Stanwell would not have released a Silver S pipe with a misfit stem. It explains the relative lack of wear to the stem as well. Our piper must have had connections to acquire a genuine Silver S replacement stem, but apparently didn’t fuss too much about fitting it perfectly.
I reamed the old cake from the bowl before attacking the internals with pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol. It was predictably dirty in there.
Topping the bowl removed both the tars and the dents.
I dropped the stem into an Oxyclean bath to soften the oxidation. Murphy’s Oil Soap and a toothbrush lifted the grime from the briar. There was some nice grain hiding under there.
I then steamed out a few deeper dents using my iron and a damp rag. A quick sanding removed the last of the major handling marks. The grain is really starting to show nicely now.
To save what was left of the already worn stamps, I taped the shank off with masking tape before using a needle file and sandpaper to address the stem/shank junction. I wanted a smooth flow from briar to Vulcanite.
A wash coat of Fiebing’s Brown leather stain followed by Saddle Tan and mineral oil refreshed the old finish.
Then I set the stummel up with a salt treatment to purge the last of the old tars from the shank.
Pulling the stem from the Oxyclean soak, I used more pipe cleaners and alcohol to scour out the crud from the airway before using needle files, sandpaper and sanding sponges to dress off the button and remove the tooth dents.
Rather than remove more material than necessary, I drop-filled the deeper tooth dents with clear CA glue. When the glue had cured, the fills were filed flush. Micromesh pads in 1500 – 12000 grits removed the sanding marks and polished the stem to a nice shine.
After all this effort, I reinserted the stem in the shank and gave the pipe a close look. The stem tenon fit snugly in the mortise – no problems there – but the fitment was still off. I must have been daydreaming when I did the initial work. Sigh. Distraction, Fatigue and Fickle Pipe Gods strike again!
The trouble now was that further filing and sanding could thin the shank walls too much and risk a break. With this in mind, and honestly, more than a bit ready to be finished this pipe, I decided to install a shank band to smooth over the imperfections and restore the flow of the pipe from stummel to stem. It’s a bit of a cop-out, I know, but it gets the job done.
I picked a band from my supplies and test-fitted it on the pipe. I rather liked the overall look, though I would have preferred a narrower band. This one will overlap the stamps slightly when it’s installed.
I made sure that the band would slide smoothly up the shank after I heated it, then held it over the heat gun for a few minutes. This expanded the metal band slightly, at which point I pushed the band about 90% home, leaving it slightly proud of the shank end. This small overlap covered the rounded shoulders of the stem and takes the slightly off-centered nature of the stem/shank junction out of play.
I finished the pipe by buffing stummel and stem with White Diamond compound on the wheel before applying a few coats of Carnauba wax.
The finished pipe is not quite where I had hoped it would be but still miles ahead of where it started. The rim is crisp and clean, and the mostly straight grain shows nicely through the refreshed finish, with tight Birdseye covering the bottom of the stummel. The silver Crowned S logo gleams on the stem, a shine reflected by the bright nickel band, which looks like it’s been there the whole time. Even the worn stamps are easier to make out without the layer of dirt and grime that obscured them.
This Silver S is ready to go to a new home. If you are willing to overlook worn stamps and a slightly unnecessary shank band to gain a great smoker, this pipe may just be the perfect addition to your rack and rotation. It’s available on the DadsPipes Store now.
Here’s the finished pipe. Thanks for looking and until next time, Happy Piping!