This refurbishment is in many ways one of the more interesting of my recent pipe projects. First off, it was an eBay purchase made by a client in Taiwan who had the seller in the USA send the pipe directly to me here in Canada.
The owner also sent me a wish list of work he hoped could be done on the pipe. The most important item on the list for him was converting the pipe to accept a 6mm or 9mm filter. Having never seen the pipe firsthand, the owner also asked me to look over the pipe and identify any other work that should be done while I had the pipe on the worktable.
Here is the pipe as it was when it arrived. It was a good looking billiard, though not a particularly high-end pipe. Reasonably clean, there was a small amount of cake in the bowl, and a bit of rim darkening but otherwise the briar appeared to be in good shape.
The stem wasn’t oxidized but had a few tooth dents near the bit that would need attention. The other thing that stood out to me was the shiny topcoat on the bowl. I wasn’t sure if this was shellac or some type of urethane, but either way it would have to come off in order to properly repair a few loose or missing fills in the briar.
The pipe is stamped “Indelux” in an arch over “Old” over “Root” on the left shank, and “Duncan” over “Series” on the right shank. Parallel to the shank face on the underside was marked “Made in France”.
Pipedia.org tells us that Duncan Briars was an English pipe firm established in 1899 and eventually sold in 1994. I believe the Indelux Duncan Series was manufactured after the sale of the firm as a bit of a tribute to the original pipemakers. This would explain the Made in France COM stamp, and the urethane topcoat on the briar, something I doubt an old family pipe-making company would have done.
Speaking of that topcoat, this is where I elected to start the transformation of this pipe. A wipe with alcohol on a cotton pad had no effect on the shiny coating, confirming my suspicion that this was indeed a modern urethane-type topcoat. The only way I’ve found to effectively strip this kind of gloss coat is by tedious hand sanding.
I worked on the stummel with 220-grit sandpaper until I had removed all of the gloss coat. I’ve worked on several pipes on which the stamps existed solely in the topcoat, so removing the coating effectively erased the stamps. Thankfully, the stamps here were deep enough to penetrate the briar and survive the work.
I tidied the briar up a bit with 320-grit sandpaper followed by a rub-down with 0000 steel wool to add a bit of polish, then left the final finishing to later. I knew I’d be handling the stummel quite a bit during the filter conversion where it would be at risk of small dents and scratches.
To create a pocket for the 6mm filter inside the pipe shank, I clamped a drill bit into my vise and turned the stummel by hand on the bit to slowly drill out the shank. I used a Grabow 6mm filter as a reference, splitting the pocket roughly 70/30 between the shank and the stem. The second pic below shows the filter fitted into the drilled out shank. The portion sticking out will slip into a similar pocket drilled into the stem.
Moving to the stem, I cut the existing pre-molded tenon off with a hacksaw before clamping the stem in the drill press. I got lucky on this pipe, as the old tenon was 5/16” in diameter, the same size as the aluminum tubing I’d be using to create the new tenon.
I drilled the stem twice here – once with a 7/32” bit to form the filter pocket, and then, somewhat shallower, with an 11/32” bit to accept the 5/16” tubing. (My drill press isn’t the most accurate piece of equipment, so I find that drilling ever so slightly larger than the tenon gives just enough wiggle room to glue the tenon in at the right angle to ensure a good shank to stem fit.)
With the drilling done, it was time to test fit everything and then glue it up with JB Kwik. I roughed up the gluing surface of the new tenon to give the epoxy something to grip, then slid everything together and held it in place until the epoxy set. A thin smear of petroleum jelly on the shank face helped me avoid accidentally gluing the stem to the shank. That would be awkward!
The converted stem was slightly loose in the shank mortise, so I decided to give the client another item on his wishlist – a shank band. Not only would this give the pipe a bit of bling, but also compress the shank end slightly, tightening the stem fit.
I didn’t take pictures of the banding, but it was a straightforward installation. I selected a suitable band from my stock, fit it onto the end of the shank, then heated the band to expand the metal before pushing it home. I left the band slightly proud of the shank face to ensure a seamless transition from shank to stem.
The rest of the refurbishment went quite smoothly after this point. I filled the tooth dents in the stem with CA glue mixed with charcoal powder, then sanded and polished the vulcanite stem. I finished sanding and polishing the briar, finding a small constellation of pinhead fills to repair along the way. the briar then received a two-colour contrast stain of Fiebing’s Dark Brown leather dye to highlight the grain followed by a wash coat of diluted Fiebing’s Saddle Tan dye to refresh the briar without giving it too much colour.
Then it was off to the buffer for a run of White Diamond compound and several coats of Carnauba wax.
I’m really quite pleased with the finished pipe. A filter conversion is kind of like installing a new furnace in your home – it’s not a sexy improvement (no one says “Hey, check out my new furnace!”), but it makes a huge difference to the owner’s enjoyment of the property. In this case, the pipe looks like it has always been a filter pipe, which is about as good as it gets.
I also found some very nice briar hiding under the original gloss coat and uninspiring yellowish finish. The red-on-brown contrast stain really makes the grain pop and the wax finish adds a depth of shine no gloss coat gets close to, in my opinion at least.
I think the pipe’s new owner will be very happy with the pipe when it arrives in Taiwan. I’ll try to update this post after he receives it.
Thanks for joining me on this filter conversion adventure. It’s not a particularly common request from pipe owners, but, while not a job for the novice repairman, it’s not a particularly difficult job either. My advice, should you decide to undertake a conversion of your own, is to measure carefully and work slowly and patiently.
Until next time, Happy Piping! Here’s the finished pipe.