Repairing Deep Tooth Dents in a 1940’s Dunhill Shell LV1 Straight Brandy

This pipe was sent to me for stem work to address some deep tooth dents. The rest of the pipe was in excellent estate condition, and arrived already  cleaned (!), which meant I could focus on the work requested.

Here are pics of the pipe as I first saw it on arrival. As you can see, the finish was in great shape and the stem fit well at the shank. The only real issues with the pipe were the tooth dents – two large, deep marks on the underside of the bit and one smaller, shallower dent on the top side.

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The pipe has a flat, smooth strip on the underside of the bowl and shank, which allows it to sit upright on a flat surface. Inside the smooth area, the pipe is stamped “LV1” on the underside of the bowl followed by “Dunhill Shell” then “Made in England” over “Patent No XXXX74/34”. The X’s are mine – the stamp is worn at this point, mostly erasing the word “Made” of “Made in England” and the first 4 digits of the patent number. A quick bit of research shows that the patent number should read “Patent No 417574/34”.

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Usually the date stamp (one or two digits stamped after the D in “England”) clearly identifies the year of production for a Dunhill pipe. It’s one of the things that makes the brand so highly collectible. This pipe, however, is missing its date stamp. All is not lost, however; the Dunhill Dating Guide on Pipephil.eu allows us to narrow things down to a reasonable time-frame based on the other stamps on the pipe.

I started the dating process by tracing the patent number 417574/34. Dunhill used this stamp from 1942 to 1954. A good start, but we can narrow the production window by several additional years, ironically, through another stamp that ISN’T on this pipe – the Group Size. Dunhill introduced its now ubiquitous Group Size stamp, consisting of a number (1 through 6) in a circle, and denoting the size of the pipe, in 1951. This means that our LV1 Straight Brandy dates from between 1942 and 1950.

With the dating mystery sorted, I set the stummel aside and started working on the stem repair. I gently warmed the bit over a lighter flame to soften the vulcanite before pushing a pipe cleaner through the stem from the tenon end. This opened up the airway, which had been slightly restricted due to the deep tooth dents. The heat also raised the dents slightly but not enough to avoid filling.

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I used a bit of 220-grit sandpaper to scuff up the damaged areas on top and bottom of the bit. This smoothed out the minor tooth chatter there and helped to define the extend of the damages while providing some “grip” for the upcoming repair.

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To fill the dents, I mixed activated charcoal powder into some thick CA glue and used a toothpick to drop the fill mixture into the dents, overfilling the damages slightly.

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I left the stem to sit for a few hours while the CA glue cured fully. I have found that rushing the process does no favours for the repairman. Uncured fills tend to smear when worked by file or sandpaper instead of cutting down cleanly, so I usually leave stem fills for longer than strictly necessary to make sure they cure all the way through.

Once ready to work, I used a flat needle file and 220 and 320-grit sandpapers to level and smooth the fills. This picture shows a common, but easily remedied, problem with stem fills. The CA glue can develop tiny air bubbles while curing, resulting in a honeycomb texture once sanded.

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Fortunately, one or more light coats of clear, thin CA glue will fill the bubbles and any other irregularities in the stem fills. This can sometimes be a tedious and repetitive process, as tiny bubbles aren’t always as receptive to filling as larger ones. Patience and determination will see you through! This repair took three or four applications of clear CA glue to fill all the micro-bubbles.

When the fills were (finally) complete, I sanded the stem with increasingly finer abrasives – 220 and 320 grit dry sandpaper, 0000 steel wool and then 800 and 2000-grit wet papers. It’s important to spend enough time at each stage of sanding to completely remove the scratches left behind by the previous grit. If you miss any, they are guaranteed to show up later– usually when you think you’re finished!

From here I took the stem to the buffer for a run of White Diamond compound. If I’ve been diligent during the sanding and polishing stages, the White Diamond easily deals with whatever fine marks are left behind by the 2000-grit wet sanding. If any marks remain, it’s back to the workable for more sanding before buffing again. In this case, the stem polished up very nicely, so I finished off the work with several light coats of Carnauba wax on the wheel to shine and protect.

With nothing else to do to this pipe, this repair was relatively straightforward, though I have tried to highlight those points at which the process can get a bit out of hand if you’re not careful. As with any repair or restoration, a degree of focus, attention and patience will serve you well when you set out to tackle a similar stem repair.

This 1940s-era Dunhill LV1 Straight Brandy has already been reunited with its owner, who is very pleased to have it back in his rack.

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

Here’s the finished pipe.

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