Showing Off My Pot as Canada Preps for Legal Cannabis

The title of this post is a bit misleading – ok, it’s a complete bait and switch. I’m not talking about THAT pot at all (which should, of course, stay as far away from your prized briars, meers and cobs as humanly possible). Rather, I’m writing about a Patent Era Brigham 145 Extra Large Pot that somehow made its way into my refurb box – when I wasn’t looking, of course!

The 45 shape is not one I’ve come across before, so I’m thrilled to be able to add it to the catalog of vintage Brigham shapes. (On a side note, look for an official Shape Chart update soon!) There are two other Pot shapes in the Brigham line-up, Shapes 14 (Medium Pot) and 15 (Large Pot). By far the most common in the estate market is the Shape 14 Medium Pot.

I pulled a 3-Dot Shape 14 Pot from my rack to compare it to the 145 on the worktable. Interestingly, the two pipes are the same length (roughly 143mm bowl to button); the difference lies in the bowl dimensions. The Shape 14 bowl is 40mm high and 34mm wide with a 20mm x 31mm chamber bore. The Shape 45 bowl comes in at 41mm high by 36mm wide with a 24mm x 31mm bore.

These pics show both pipes together. At first glance they may seem fairly similar, but on closer inspection the larger chamber of the Shape 45 becomes clear.

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When the pipe came to the worktable, it was in quite good condition – someone had cared for it over its past life for certain. There was the typical layer of dirt, grease and wax on the exterior, which gave the pipe a grimy feel in the hand, but underneath it the briar was free of any of the usual dings, dents and dottle-knocks so common on older pipes.

The stem, too, was in good overall shape with only a bit of tooth chatter to deal with under a light film of oxidation. A medium layer of cake obscured the inner edge of the tobacco chamber, and a bit of lava had crept up onto the rim. I was hopeful that there was nothing sinister hiding underneath!

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Another testament to the level of care given this lowly 1-Dot Brigham Standard is the clarity of the stampings. The left shank is marked with the old straight “Brigham” script logo over “CAN. PAT. 372982”, while the right shank carries the shape number, “145”. The round saddle stem carries a single brass pin, or Dot. The patent stamp dates this pipe to the period between 1938 and 1955.

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Interestingly, the nickel shank band on this Pot appears to be decorative and not a repair band as I had first assumed. This pic of the shank face shows that the briar around the mortise is undamaged, without a crack or other break that would have necessitated a repair band. The band has also been countersunk into the briar to maintain the smooth flow of the shank and stem.

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To the best of my knowledge, Brigham didn’t offer decorative factory bands on their pipes at the time this pipe was made, but I could be wrong. It’s possible that the band was a factory option, or it may have been done post-purchase by another repair shop at the owners request. Either way, the band is very well fitted and, in my opinion, elevates the appearance of this entry level pipe.

While I’m on that subject, I’d like to take a second to point out that the stummel, while showing what I’d consider attractive but average mixed grain, is completely free of fills, pits or other indications of inferior briar. Just one more reason I love estate pipes – you’d never see this quality of briar in an entry level pipe nowadays!

Getting on to the refurbishment, I first dropped the stem into a bath of Oxyclean and warm water to soften the oxidation. As the stem soaked, I worked on the stummel, first reaming the old cake out of the chamber with my Castleford reamer followed by a scrap of sandpaper wrapped around a Sharpie.

You’ll also notice a dental pick in the picture below. The chamber walls had been slathered at some point with a relatively thick (1/16th inch or so) layer of what I assume was a DIY bowl coating. Reaming the cake broke off large sections of the coating, so I picked off most of the remaining layer with the dental pick. You can see the remnant of the coating, which I eventually sanded out, in the bottom of the bowl.

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As the pipe was in such good vintage condition, I went with the least invasive method of cleaning the rim of the bowl. I used a handful of cotton swabs lubricated with good old fashioned saliva to dissolve and clear away the lava crust from the surface of the rim. This methods takes a bit more time than others, but the benefit is zero risk of accidentally damaging the briar. As these pics show, it’s worth the time spent.

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Alcohol, pipe cleaners and cotton swabs made short work of cleaning the mortise and airway, while a quick wipe with alcohol on a cotton pad removed the layer of grease, dirt and old wax from the exterior of the stummel.

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I set the clean stummel aside at this point and pulled the stem from its Oxyclean bath. The softened oxidation, dirt, grease and other goodies scrubbed easily away with 0000 steel wool and Magic Eraser, while a few pipe cleaners dipped in alcohol sorted out the airway and filter holder.

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I used a series of progressively finer abrasives to remove the tooth chatter from the bite zone of the stem – 320 grit sandpaper followed by 0000 steel wool and then 800 and 2000-grit wet sandpapers.

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I reassembled the pipe at this point and took it to the buffer. I gave the stem a run on both the Tripoli and White Diamond wheels to remove the last of the sanding marks and bring up the shine. The briar received a light buff with White Diamond, and then both stem and stummel were treated to several light coats of Carnauba wax.

The finished 145 XL Pot looks like a million bucks after it day at the spa. The rejuvenated briar glows through its patina of age, the saddle stem shines a glossy black and the bright polished nickel band gives the entire pipe a note of refined touch of class. I’m thrilled to add this vintage Brigham to my rack and collection.

Thanks for joining me for another estate pipe restoration. I hope this post encourages you to take on a project of your own and discover for yourself the rewards of this hobby. And if anyone out there has a Brigham Shape 15 Large Pot, please send pictures for the Shape Chart – it’s an elusive one!

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

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