Restorations, Uncategorized

Restoring a Unique Brigham 5-Dot Bent Brandy

Today I’m back digging around in the estate lot of pipes I purchased last summer. Along with the Brigham 5W1 I wrote about last time, the lot included another Brigham – an interesting 5-Dot Bent Brandy.

I have pulled it out of the refurb box several times since I acquired it, trying to get a grip on exactly what it is, and I’m still not 100% certain about it. As this first series of images shows, it is a Bent Brandy shape carved with a unique triangular shank and multifaceted design that makes the pipe look like it has been chiseled from rock instead of carved from briar.

When I brought it to the worktable, the pipe was dirty and greasy feeling and the stem was heavily oxidized. There were mineral accretions at the bit and a few tooth dents hiding underneath the discolouration. The rim showed a bit of charring across the rear edge, but overall the pipe was in pretty good estate condition.

The stamps on this pipe are fairly brief – the shank is stamped with “Brigham” and the underside of the bowl is marked with a “5”, which corresponds with the five brass Dots on the stem. The lack of a country of manufacture stamp indicates that this pipe was made in the 1990s.

The semi-finished, natural briar is strongly reminiscent of the Brigham Sportsman series of pipes, but I am almost certain that the triangular shank is experimental as I have never seen it used on any production pipes. That makes me wonder if this is another of Herb Brigham’s “Just for Fun” pipes.

After his official retirement in the 1980s, Herb continued to go in to work daily and would often sit down at a workbench and tinker with pipe shapes, carving one-off pipes that, if deemed good enough, would make their way to the storefront and be sold to customers. With a few such Just for Fun pieces in my collection, I am inclined to identify this Bent Brandy as another of Herb’s creations.

I reamed a light cake from the chamber and examined the briar underneath for any damage or flaws. Thankfully I found neither.

A quick spin on some 1000-grit wet sandpaper removed the light crust of lava from the rim. When I was happy with the results, I scrubbed the exterior of the stummel gently with some 0000 steel wool. This removed the the old dirt and wax and brought up the shine on the otherwise unfinished briar.

With the exterior of the stummel looking good, I turned to the interior. I used a small army of shank brushes, scrapers, cotton swaps, pipe cleaners and alcohol to remove a surprising amount of tars and old gunk from the shank and airway. This pipe had clearly been a favourite of its previous steward.

During the time I had been working on the stummel, the stem for this Brigham Bent Brandy had been lounging in an Oxyclean bath to soften the oxidation and any tars lurking in the airway. With the stummel basically ready to go, I set it aside and retrieved the stem. A scrub with 0000 steel wool and Magic Eraser cleared away the oxidation and returned the Vulcanite to its original black colour. Here it is after a preliminary smoothing with 1000 and 2000-grit sandpapers.

With the oxidation and mineral buildup removed, the tooth dents came into focus, along with a rather slim button. I decided to remedy both at the same time with a mix of thick CA glue and activated charcoal powder, using it to fill the dents and enlarge the rear edge of the button on both top and bottom of the bit.

I let the stem patches cure overnight – I have found it is best not to rush thick applications of CA glue – and then used needle files and sandpaper to cut the new button profile and smooth out the patches over the dents.

When I was happy with the new button I started the sanding and polishing process, working my way through progressively finer abrasives from 220 to 2000-grit. Each paper smoothed out the scratched from the previous grit and brought up the shine.

Then it was time to reunited stem and stummel and take the finished pipe to the buffer. I gave the stem a run on both the Red Tripoli and White Diamond wheels while the stummel was lightly buffed with White Diamond only. A few light coats of Carnauba wax added shine and protection from oxidation.

The finished pipe looks much better after its time on the bench. Though not as dramatic a transformation as some other pipes I have blogged about, I am always impressed with the difference a decent cleaning and polishing makes to an estate pipe. Without the dirt and oxidation to distract the eye, it is once again possible to appreciate the skill and craftsmanship that went into the creation of this Brigham Bent Brandy. The restored pipe has taken its place in my personal collection.

Thanks for joining me for this relatively straightforward restoration. I hope it inspires you to take a look at your own pipes to see which ones could benefit from a bit of attention. Until next time, Happy Piping!

Here’s the finished pipe.