This is another of the pipes sent to me from Iqaluit for refurbishment. I don’t how the owner sources such consistently interesting Blatter estate pipes, but source them he does!
This particular Blatter is a BIG rustic Author pipe, a real fistful of briar with a large chamber and thick walls. The shank looks positively stubby in comparison to the width of the bowl, but actually retains the classic Author 1:1 shank length to bowl height dimensions. The stem is a short bent saddle, into which Blatter has carved convenient dimples to assist removal and reinsertion of the stem.
The pipe arrived in good estate condition. It would need a good general cleaning to prepare it for its new piper, but apart from a layer of lava on the inward-sloping bowl rim, the briar looked to be in great shape.
The stem was a slightly different matter. While it was relatively clean, it appeared that the previous owner had actually carried this behemoth around in his teeth! The stem had deep tooth marks top and bottom of the bit, right behind the button. I knew at first glance I was in for some stem rehabilitation.
The pipe is stamped on the left flank with “Blatter Bros” over “Make” over “Montreal” over “Selected”. Below and slightly to the right of these marks is stamped “65-75”, which I understand identifies this pipe as the 65th made in 1975. .
Before dropping the stem into the Oxyclean bath for a soak I attempted to pass a pipe cleaner through the airway. No go. As I had suspected, those tooth dents had pinched the airway almost completely closed at the button.
I reopened the passage by heating the vulcanite stem over a lighter flame until soft before passing a pipe cleaner through the airway to push the walls apart. I let the stem cool with the pipe cleaner in place to make sure it held its new configuration.
While the stem lounged in its little bath I worked on the stummel, reaming out the old cake and tidying up the chamber walls with a bit of sandpaper. I also used a small square of fine-grit sanding sponge to remove most of the offending lava from the smooth rim.
The sanding took off the worst of the grime, but to get the rim really clean took a concerted effort with brass tire brush, dental pic and cotton swabs. In the end, though, I uncovered both the smooth briar and the decorative rustication that had been hiding under the tarry crud.
I finished the basic cleaning of the stummel with pipe cleaners and more cotton swabs dipped in alcohol to clear out what proved to be a fairly clean mortise and airway. As you can see in the pic, I also set up a salt and alcohol treatment.
Setting the stummel aside to let the salt treatment do its thing, I pulled the stem from the Oxyclean bath and scrubbed away a light layer of oxidation with a bit of Magic Eraser. A few pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol removed the tars and debris that remained in the airway.
The following morning, I returned to the stummel and found the salt in the bowl discoloured by the tars wicked out of the briar overnight. Job done! I dumped out the salt, pulled the cotton from the shank and ran a few more pipe cleaners through the airway to clear out stray salt crystals and a bit of now-loosened tars.
Now that the pipe was clean, I could get down to the actual business of refurbishment, centring this time on the stem. I sanded out the tooth chatter and scratches with 220-grit sandpaper. This smoothed out 90% of the stem surface, but those tooth dents would need to be filled.
I drop-filled the dents with CA glue and let the patches cure before filing and sanding the repairs smooth. The last pic below shows the stem after working with 220-grit sandpaper and a 320-grit sanding sponge. Much improved already, though more work is required.
To erase the sanding scratches and blend in the fills with the surrounding vulcanite, I worked on the stem with 800 and 2000-grit wet sandpapers and then 2400-12000 grit micromesh sanding pads. It was an awkward stem to polish by hand as the dimpled shank and short saddle bit gave very little room to grip the stem as I worked, but eventually I was happy with the results.
Reuniting stummel and stem, I headed to the buffer to give the pipe a light run of White Diamond compound before applying several coats of Carnauba wax – lightly on the stummel to avoid burying globs of wax in the deep rustication, and heavier on the stem to shine and protect the vulcanite.
This wasn’t the most challenging refurbishment I’ve undertaken, but I thought the Author lovers out there would enjoy seeing this unique take on the classic pipe shape. I found it rather compelling while working on it; sometimes a pipe just speaks to you, I suppose. I can certainly picture the new owner enjoying a nice long smoke in this pipe while gazing out across the beautiful scenery of Canada’s Far North.
Thanks for joining me. Until next time, Happy Piping!
The image quality of these final shots isn’t the very best, unfortunately, but as the pipe has already gone home to Iqaluit, they’ll have to do. Here’s the finished pipe.