I received an email from Peterson pipe aficionado Mark Irwin of Peterson Pipe Notes recently, with a request for some help restoring the stem on an intricately carved bulldog shaped pipe. The brand is a new one for me. As Mark explained in his note, the fellow who owned the tiny BPL (Briar Pipe Line) shop in Dublin, Ireland outsourced bowls from Peterson, then hand-carved and stained them for sale in the Shannon Airport.
He included these pics of the pipe, which is clearly a Peterson 80S clone, showing both the Shamrock & Harp carving motif and the extensive damage to the button end of the stem.
I have relied on Mark’s intimate knowledge of all things Peterson many times while working on estate Petes, so I was only too happy to be able to help him in return. Soon enough, the pipe arrived here and I had a chance to look over the patient firsthand.
As you can see in this series of pics, the stummel, though in need of a cleanup, was in good shape under a layer of dirt and grime. The stem, however, had really been chewed on by its previous owner.
The pipe is stamped “B.P.L” on the left upper facet of the diamond saddle stem, and “Irish” over “hand Carved” in block letters on the left shank. The right shank is marked “Made in Dublin” over “Ireland”. The markings are a bit uneven in depth, and the stem logo was clearly stamped at least twice, which was destined to cause problems down the line.
The Oxyclean soak I use to deoxidize vulcanite stems can be hard on paint-filled stem logos like this BPL stamp. In an effort to protect and preserve the logo as much as possible, I dabbed a thick layer of petroleum jelly over the stamp before popping it into the Oxyclean bath.
While the stem soaked, I worked on the stummel, first reaming the chamber of a light cake layer using sandpaper wrapped around a marker. The briar chamber walls were in excellent shape underneath, though the floor was slightly dimpled by a reamer head sometime in the past.
I used pipe cleaners, cotton swabs and alcohol to clean the mortise and airway. There was quite a bit of gunky tar built up at the end of the mortise. You can see the residue on the tissue in this pic, scraped out using the square end of a needle file.
The exterior of the briar was sticky in the hand, so I did a preliminary cleaning using alcohol on a cotton pad. This removed the old wax and a fair amount of dirt.
The rear half of the rim was covered in a thin crust of lava, and there were a number of small dents and dings showing. I dealt with both issues by very lightly topping the bowl.
The last pic above shows some “road rash” on the front upper face of the stummel caused by knocking the pipe against a hard surface. I sanded out the worst of the damage, then filled the remaining deeper marks with CA glue mixed with briar dust. When the patch had cured, I sanded it smooth then polished the smooth area with micromesh pads to 12000 grit.
I completed the stummel restoration with a scrub of Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean the nooks and crannies of the carved briar, then refreshing the finish with a light coat of Fiebing’s Dark Brown leather dye and a wipe of mineral oil.
I set the stummel aside at this point and moved on to the meat of this restoration, the stem. Pulling the stem from its Oxyclean bath, I saw that despite my precautions, the paint had lifted out of the BPL logo. I scrubbed the stem with Magic Eraser to remove the softened oxidation, carefully avoiding the logo as I went. This pic shows the stem after cleaning the exterior. The double-stamped logo was shallower than I had thought.
I filled the logo with white acrylic paint and let it dry. I took this opportunity to clean the rather dirty airway, then scraped away the excess paint. Unfortunately, the shallow stamping didn’t recover completely – the upright line of the “P’ is gone – very frustrating, but at least it’s still readable.
I’ve learned to walk away from the work table for a while when things like this logo damage happen – trying to accomplish anything while upset is usually a great way to mess something else up. After a “brain break”, I got to work rebuilding the chewed up button. The first step was to mix up a small batch of thick CA glue and activated charcoal powder and apply it to the damaged area. I built up the end of the stem with multiple applications of the patch mixture, intentionally over-filling the area to give lots of material from which to carve the new button.
I let the patches cure for a full 24 hours, then used needle files and sandpaper to rough in the new shape. I think giving the patch amply time to cure properly is key to a good repair. An under-cured patch is soft and doesn’t respond well to shaping.
Inevitably, this process creates air bubbles in the patches as the CA glue cures. I had to apply a skim coat of CA a few times before I achieved a smooth surface. it can be a tedious and, frankly, annoying process, but eventually the new button was looking good.
Finally happy with the results, I wet-sanded the stem to 2000-grit, then mounted the stem to the stummel and took the pipe to the buffer. Careful not to buff out more of the stem logo, I gave the stem a run on both the Tripoli and White Diamond wheels, while the stummel received a light buff on the White Diamond wheel only. Several light coats of Carnauba wax finished the job and brought up the shine.
This BPL carved Bulldog is now clean, refreshed and ready to send back to Mark for use in his upcoming blog post. I have focused this post on the repairs; I’m looking forward to learning more about the pipe’s history from Mark soon.
What I can say about BPL from my short experience with this example is that the company did some very nice carving work. A bit more attention to detail where the stampings are concerned wouldn’t have hurt, but overall, the quality is certainly there, especially for a pipe made primarily for the tourist market – just the sort of thing a pipe loving traveler might pick up on the way through Shannon airport. Knowing that the briar was sourced from Peterson, I’d also guess that there are better than average odds that BPL pipes smoke well, too.
I enjoyed working on this pipe. Thanks go to Mark Irwin for inviting me to participate in this project. Thanks also to all of you for joining me on this restoration journey. Until next time, Happy Piping!
Here’s the finished pipe.