Easing Into Things with a Quick Refresh of an Unusual 1970’s Era Brigham Sportsman

Hello, everyone, and thanks for your patience while I have been getting settled in the new digs. I’m starting things off with an easy one – a quick tidy-up of a 1970’s Brigham Sportsman. There are a fair few of these not-quite-finished vintage Brigham pipes kicking around, but this one is a bit unique for a couple of reasons. First, it is one of only a few freehand Sportsman models I’ve come across to date, and, secondly, the pinning pattern on the stem is unusual.

If this pipe had made it all the way through production instead of being diverted to the Sportsman line (roughly-shaped, semi-finished pipes aimed at the outdoorsman),  it most likely would have become a Norseman 9W5. The pic below shows the pipe alongside a 9W5 from my own rack. The basic shape is there, but notice the relatively short shank on the Sportsman pipe. My guess is that the briar block was rough-carved and then used as a Sportsman pipe when it didn’t measure up to the Norseman spec.

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I took a good look at what turned out to be a very gently used pipe and snapped this series of pics to show what the pipe looked like when it arrived on my worktable. As you can see, it was in quite good condition, with the exception of some rather ugly oxidation stuck in the crannies of the turned stem and around the bit.

Notice also the brass pins, or Dots, as Brigham called them, inset into the flank of the stem. This pattern of two vertical dots is an oddity. As far as I know, it is not an official pinning configuration; if I had to hazard a guess, I’d suggest that the pipe-maker fitted a reject stem to make a functional pipe. (For what it’s worth, I HAVE seen a few of these Norseman stummels pinned with 4 Dots and stamped “4Wx” (where x is the shape number), but I can’t imagine Brigham ever released a 2-Dot version of what was once one of its highest-grade pipes.)

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Apart from the oxidation, the stem’s only issue was a bit of orange-peel type tooth chatter at the bit, which should be easily sanded out during the cleanup.

The pipe is stamped “Brigham” and “MADE IN CANADA” in a line on the underside of the shank. These marks put the pipe’s production era somewhere in the late 1960’s to mid-1970s.

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After this initial examination, I dropped the stem into a bath of Oxiclean and warm water to soak and soften the oxidation. While the stem soaked, I worked on the stummel.

The chamber had only what I’d call soot rather than cake lining the top two thirds of the chamber walls. This pipe was only smoked a handful of times.  Lack of cake notwithstanding, I tidied up the chamber with a bit of sandpaper wrapped around a Sharpie marker.

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The shank and airway cleaned up just as easily with a few pipe cleaners and cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl alcohol.

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I finished up the stummel work by giving the briar a scrub with Murphy’s Oil Soap on a toothbrush. I dip the toothbrush into the soap full strength and simply scrub it around the exterior of the stummel, paying particular attention to the plateau rim where grime loves to hide. A rinse with cold water and a scrub with a bit of towel washes away years of accumulated oil, dust, dirt and whatever else an old pipe accumulates while it sits around waiting to be refurbished.

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Rather than polish and wax this pipe, which was sold as raw briar, I moisturized and refreshed the wood with a light wipe of mineral oil. A little oil goes a long way, so it’s important not to overdo it. I apply just a few drops onto a cotton pad, scrub it into the briar, and wipe away the excess oil after only letting it sit for a minute.

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Setting the finished stummel aside, I pulled the stem from its Oxyclean bath and set about scrubbing away the now softened oxidation with 0000 steel wool and a scrap of Magic Eraser. It took a fair amount of effort to get the yellow-brown muck out from the tiny grooves in the turned stem! When I was satisfied with the state of things, I followed up by wet-sanding with 800 and 2000-grit sandpapers to smooth out the tooth chatter and bring up the shine.

I finished this quick refurb with a trip to the buffer for the stem for a bit of Red Tripoli on the troublesome spots to erase any lingering oxidation followed by an overall buffing with White Diamond compound and several light coats of Carnauba wax to seal and protect the vulcanite.

I reassembled this unique Sportsman freehand and took this last series of pictures. This project is the perfect example of a small amount of work going a long way to improve the appearance and overall desirability of an estate pipe. While not as dramatic a change as some restorations posted here on DadsPipes, the improvements are not to be underrated – the briar is fresh and glowing, with no lingering odours of pipemen past, and the stem, restored to its original deep black colour, once again looks like something one might actually want to put in one’s mouth. A home run all round, in my book!

Thanks for joining me on another estate pipe restoration. I hope this post nudges you to give a bit of TLC to a lackluster pipe in your own collection. Perhaps you’ll fall in love with an old friend all over again!

Here’s the finished pipe. Until next time, Happy Piping!

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