An Autumn Makeover for a Darvill Squashed Tomato

I pulled this little Squashed Tomato stummel from my box and decided it would be the focus of my next restoration. Though it measures a more or less standard 1.5 inches wide, the bowl is only 1.25 inches tall, with a proportionally small 5/8” chamber bore.

The stummel came to me without a stem and in pretty grimy shape. There were thick, greasy stains on both sides of the bowl, and a handful of dents and scrapes speckled about the briar. Though obviously not heavily smoked, there was a bit of lava on the rim.

The shank was fitted with a nickel shank cap which, after a bit of research, appears to be original. The end of the shank had been thinned down to accommodate the cap, but perhaps by too much as the cap was loose and easily removed to reveal a chipped and ragged briar shank end.

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The stummel is marked “REAL BRIAR” over “DARVILL” over “MADE IN FRANCE” on the left shank.

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There isn’t much out there on the Darvill brand. Most of my internet research turned up estate pipe listings on eBay, though I did find one advertisement for new Darvill pipes on a UK retail site, so it appears that the brand is still active, at least in one European market.

I found no reference to the line on either Pipephil.eu or Pipedia.org, my first stops on the “what is that pipe” fact-finding trips. Overall, I’m left with the impression that Darvill pipes are an entry-level, low cost brand, though at least in the case of this Squashed Tomato, the briar seems to be of good quality (I found only a couple very small fills) and the airway drilling is accurate.

With my initial research and evaluation complete, I began hunting for a suitable replacement stem to pair with the diminutive stummel. After rejecting a few candidates, I settled on an amber lucite tapered stem that I thought would suit well. Here is a pic of the stummel and the new stem.

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It was Family Movie Night here, so I took the stem, a flat needle file and some sandpaper to my favourite chair and worked on reducing the diameter of the stem tenon to fit the diameter of the mortise. This can be, for me at least, a tedious process of repeated filing and test fitting, reducing the tenon by a fraction of a millimetre each time. Lose focus and you can end up with an out-of-round tenon or overshoot the mark and get a loose fit. Eventually, though, things came together and I had a whole pipe again.

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Now that I knew the pipe would rise again from its decrepit state, I worked on cleaning up the stummel. The tobacco chamber was not heavily caked; it took only a quick swipe with 100-grit sandpaper wrapped around a marker to clean things up.

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I followed up the reaming with a very light topping of the bowl to remove the lava and a few of the more obvious dents. I did, however, uncover a charred spot at the front of the bowl, likely caused by the lava spill-over. This pic shows the divot in the inner and outer rims.

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The inner rim damage was easily sanded out, but unless I wanted to top the bowl more severely, and thus lose precious briar and bowl height, I’d need to take a different approach to the outer rim damage. I drop-filled the area with CA glue mixed with briar dust, let it cure, and then sanded everything smooth, re-establishing the original lines of the rim.

I also filled the chips in the shank end while I was at it. The nickel shank cap would have hidden the damaged briar anyway, but I didn’t want to rely on the cap for structural integrity of the mortise. Afer filing and sanding the shank repairs smooth, I reglued the shank cap back in place. My in-progress pics of this process have mysteriously disappeared, but you’ll see the results in the final shots below.

I scrubbed away the oily stains and general grime on the briar with alcohol on cotton pads and gave the stummel a light overall sanding to remove the myriad handling marks. I then treated the briar to a fresh contrast stain of Fiebing’s Saddle Tan leather dye over Dark Brown grain. I quite like the new look – the amber stem emphasizes the orange/red hues in the briar, giving the pipe a rather Autumnal colour palette.

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After a bit of internal debate, I decided to give the stem a slight bend. To do this, I slipped a pipe cleaner through the stem and warmed the lucite over my heat gun until pliable, bent the stem the desired amount and then set the new shape by cooling the stem under cool running water.

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I may have overheated the stem slightly, or maybe this is just the way of lucite stems, but the heat caused the surface of the stem to bubble slightly, leaving an “orange peel” texture on the previously smooth and glossy stem.

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To correct this, I sanded the stem smooth starting with 220 and 320-grit sandpapers and progressing through 800 and 2000-grit wet papers to finish with micromesh pads to 4000 grit. This effectively restored the gloss and transparency to the lucite.

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I finished off this restoration with a run of White Diamond compound on the buffing wheel followed by several coats of Carnauba wax for both stummel and stem.

This little Darvill Squashed Tomato has come a long way in a short amount of time. Scrubbed clean of the old grease and dirt, and with original lines restored, the stummel once again looks loved and ready for action.

This will never be a “big” pipe, but it certainly doesn’t look like a toy anymore. The slender amber stem provides a nice retro-vintage appeal while balancing the overall look of the pipe and adding some much-needed length. The finished pipe is a very respectable 5.25” long, despite its 1.0oz/28g weight. I think it will suit any piper looking for a shorter smoke with a classic look.

If you’d like to add this pipe to your rack or that of another piper, it’s available in the DadsPipes Store now.

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

Here’s the finished pipe.

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