Tooth Dents and Rim Lava on a Blatter Rustic Bent Rhodesian

This is pipe #5 from the group of Blatter pipes sent to me from a piper in Iqaluit, Nunavut. This compact Rhodesian stood out to me immediately, the Rhody being one of my favourite pipe shapes. The rustication on this particular pipe is also quite striking – deep, craggy and very tactile.

The pipe arrived on the workbench in pretty good condition. It had been well cared for, like the rest of its brethren, and had recently been reamed to cut the cake back. There was a ring of lava stuck in the rusticated bowl rim that would have to come out, and the stem was fairly oxidized. The biggest issue with the pipe, however, was the business end of the stem – the bite and button areas showed some of the deepest tooth dents I’ve contended with in some time.

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The pipe is stamped on its smooth underside with “Blatter” over “Montreal” and then what seems to be a “5” over “97”. I believe these numbers mean that this particular pipe was the fifth pipe made in 1997.

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My Castleford reamer made short work of the already thinned cake in the tobacco chamber. A quick inspection showed no hidden damage or other issues to contend with there.

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I used a brass bristle tire brush to gently remove the lava from the rim of the bowl. This is the best method I’ve found for digging tars and dirt out of a rusticated rim. The remaining small bits visible in the picture will come away when I clean the exterior of the stummel later.

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This is one piper that takes care of his briar – pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol came out clean in both stem and stummel airways.

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I tried to raise the deepest tooth dents in the stem with a bit of heat from my lighter. I’m not sure I made much headway here, but it’s always worth a shot. From here the stem went into an Oxyclean bath to raise and soften the oxidation.

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While the stem soaked, I scrubbed the rustication clean with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a toothbrush. The craggy nature of the rustication is now really on show!

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As with the other Blatter pipes I’ve worked on for this piper, I set up this stummel with a salt and alcohol treatment to freshen and deodorize the internals. I let the pipe sit overnight with the salt and alcohol; in the morning I found the salt quite discoloured, but the stummel smelled a lot better.

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Setting the stummel aside to rest, I pulled the stem from its bath and scrubbed away the softened oxidation with 0000 steel wool and Magic Eraser. The extent of the tooth damage was now clearly visible, with a shallow trench across the top of the bite area, and multiple deep dents on the underside, including one that obliterated about half of the bottom button.

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I drop filled the damaged areas with a mixture of thick CA glue and charcoal powder and let the patches cure before filing and sanding things smooth. The top side of the stem was a fairly easy fill job.

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The bottom side of the stem took a lot more effort as I had to rebuild the button as well as fill the dents there. I used a flat needle file to rough in the rear edge of the button and then turned the file 90 degrees to remove material until the edge of the lower button came into line with that of the upper button. It’s important not to push the file down into the stem while doing this; if you do, you’ll end up cutting a trench across the stem!

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With the rear edge in place, I used the files again to smooth and shape the curved profile of the button from the rear edge to the slot. I used the factory button profile from the top side as a template for shaping the bottom side.

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When I was happy with the new button, I sanded the stem with 220 and 320 grit sandpapers, 0000 steel wool and a full course of Micromesh sanding pads in 1500 – 12000 grits. This progression smoothed out the sanding marks, blended the patches into the surrounding vulcanite and raised the shine.

A final polishing on the wheel with White Diamond compound and several layers of Carnauba wax finished off this restoration. I also gave the stummel a very light once-over on the Carnauba wheel to bring up the shine without packing wax into the crags and crannies of the rustication.

This Blatter Rhodesian is looking and feeling nearly new after its “spa day” on my worktable. At just 20 years old, there are decades of smoking companionship left in this pipe, which is clearly a favourite in its owner’s rotation. May he enjoy it in good health!

Thanks for joining me for this restoration. Until next time, Happy Piping!

Here’s the finished pipe.

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