I was contacted by a pipe friend a little while ago to see if I would be interested in sprucing up an estate pipe he had recently won on eBay. Of course I said yes! The buyer was quite excited about this project – not only is it his first Dunhill, but it’s also a birth-year pipe for him!
As the pipe was coming to me direct from the online seller, the owner couldn’t give me a first-hand opinion on the pipe’s condition. When it arrived at my house, I was keen to get a look at it. I opened the box and took this series of pictures.
Overall, the pipe was in good shape, though clearly in need of a good cleaning. The finish was grimy and clouded, the rim was hidden under a lava crust and the stem was oxidized a yellowy-grey colour. The stem had a patch of tooth chatter near the bit, and the upper button had a few dents in it that would need attention.
You can also see in the last picture above a band of (relatively) black vulcanite near the shoulder of the saddle stem where the pipe had sat in a pipe stand. The darker band was protected from the sun and thus did not oxidize at the same rate as the exposed material.
The pipe is stamped “660 F/T” on the left flank, followed by “DUNHILL” over “BRUYERE”. The right shank is marked “MADE IN” over “ENGLAND5”, then “4” in a circle and “A”. Deciphering the “Dunhill-ese”, these stamps identify the pipe as a Group 4-sized Billiard with a Fish-Tail Saddle stem in the Bruyere finish, made in 1965.
I dropped the stem into a bath of Oxyclean and warm water to raise the oxidation. While I waited on the soak to do its job, I worked on the stummel. A closer inspection revealed several cosmetic issues, including a series of parallel dents on the bottom of the shank, two deep impact dents in the lower face of the bowl and some random dings and scratches from handling and use over the last 53 years.
With the issues identified, I started the cleanup, first reaming the old cake from the chamber. The previous owner was apparently careful with his pipe, as the chamber showed no damage from over-heating or careless reaming. This pic also shows the rim after removing the lava with a combination of cotton pads, swabs, and alcohol and topping gently on 800 and 2000 grit wet sandpapers to smooth out the dings.
I wiped away the dirt and grime from the exterior of the stummel with alcohol on a cotton pad. This also stripped away the old wax coat and anything else stuck to the briar.
The dents and scratches were a lot easier to see now that the old finish was gone. I attacked the two deep impact dents on the front of the bowl first, steaming the wood to gently expand the fibers.
I used to heat up an old knife blade for this, but have since taken to using an electric soldering iron as a heat source. I dip a cotton pad in water, hold it over the dent and apply the iron for a minute or two to force the steam into the dents.
After raising the dents as much as possible, I sanded the entire stummel lightly, being careful not to damage the stamps in the process. This took care of the smaller handling marks and smoothed out the grain raised while steaming the dents.
This series of pics shows the stummel as I progressed from 320-grit paper through 0000 steel wool and finally 800 and 2000-grit wet sandpapers. I followed this with a full course of micromesh sanding pads to 12000 grit, but somehow my shot of that process has gone missing.
My medium stain marker was, surprisingly, an exact match to the Bruyere finish, so it made touching up the rim very easy.
I set the stummel aside at this point and pulled the stem from its Oxyclean bath. The oxidation had softened and was easily removed by a scrub with 0000 steel wool. These pics show the tooth damage on the upper side of the bit.
The stem’s airway was exceptionally clean. It appeared as though the seller had cleaned the pipe prior to listing it for sale.
A bit of 220 grit sandpaper removed most of the tooth chatter from the bit, but the upper button was too worn down to simply file flat. Instead, I filled the damaged areas with a mixture of CA glue and charcoal powder. When the patch mix had cured, I filed and sanded it down to recreate the contours of the button.
I gave the stem a final sanding and polishing to 2000 grit. From there I reassembled the pipe and took it to the buffer. I ran the stem on a fast (3400 RPM) wheel with White Diamond compound to erase the last of the sanding marks, then slowed the wheel to 1650 RPM to bring up the shine. The stummel got its own touch on the (slow) wheel to polish up the briar, then the entire pipe received several coats of Carnauba wax to shine and protect the refreshed pipe.
This 53-year-old Bryuere is ready to be sent back to its owner, who is looking forward to packing a first bowl in his birth-year Dunhill. I hope he enjoys the pipe as much as I enjoyed working on it.
Thanks for following along. Until next time, Happy Piping!
Here’s the finished pipe.