Scoundrels – John Bessai Pot


Pipe Scoundrels Pipes.

Way back in February Clint of Pipes Scoundrels sent a huge package out of the blue . We had spoken a month or so before of a pipe that was in need of care but never figured out a plan. In the package a letter where he offered up a trade of sorts skill for skill, I love the barter system. In the package an incredible framed Pen & Ink work, that I watched though his blog come together. I was blown away by his skill and photos online. I had no idea it was coming my way, in person it was even more amazing, beautifully done. Also in the package a couple of Pipe Scoundrels stickers ( he has a killer logo) and three pipes in need of repair/cleaning. A couple John Bessai pipes one Canadian, one Pot and an Iwan Ries a unique shape I’m not familiar with. I was excited to get to work , this was the first time I was to work on someone else’s pipes but I got side tracked and side tracked again but finally I had some time to sit and finish, now the three are complete.

My plain was to write a little something on the history of Bessie pipes but as it has it some else has already done the work and a much better job then I would have. History of John Bessai (thanks to jguss from pipesmagazine forum) Classic Pipe Shops from years gone by in America – pipes and tobaccos and their influence, a well written and informative post. I will say the shop, The John Bessai Pipe Clinic was run between 1909-1993 at 35 Colonial Arcade in Cleveland Ohio.

The Restoration. 


She was in need of help, an ill fitting replacement stem that was oxidized and had a couple of impressions, chunky crumbling cake, a few fills and a rim that was smacked around a bit, but I’m not afraid of a little work.


Starting with the stummel  and my PipNet reamer I removed the old cake and took the chamber back to briar. The chamber was in descent shape aside from a small burn/defect at the top of the draught hole, I will address this a little further down.


I cleaned up the rim with Method Good For Wood Polish and could now see the damaged rim better. The photo is poor but the top of the chamber/rim was reamed in the past with what I’m guessing  was a pocket knife, the edges of the rim were nicked up and missing small chunks of briar.


Using needle files and sand paper I began to reshape the rim. First by topping the rim, I taped down 400 grit sand paper and topped the bowl. Next using needle files I reshaped the inner rim removing the file marks with 400 grit sandpaper. I finished the rim with 800 & 1000 grit sandpaper.


Using EverClear I ran a retort to loosen up the old tars, oils and tobacco.


I now gave the stummel and stem internals a good cleaning, using EverClear, shank brushes, mortise brush, Q-Tips, cotton-balls and stiff/soft pipe cleaners. I unrolled cotton-balls, twist them into a swab and turn them tightly into the mortise. I then add EverClear to the chamber and allow the swab to soak up the alcohol, I would repeat this process a few time until the swab comes out clean. I cleaned the stem and draught with stiff/soft pipe cleaners working until my final pipe cleaner comes out as it when in.


There were a few dents on the stummel, using a household iron set to medium heat and a damp rag I would steam out the dents. By dampening the rag and covering the dents to be steamed out and placing the stummel to the heated iron, I would repeat this process a few times until I was satisfied all imperfections had risen .


There were a few fills that stood out and would have to be removed. Using a X-Acto knife and Method Wood polish, to soften the fill, I removed the old brightly colored filler. I cleaned the area to be refilled with an alcohol dampened Q-Tip. I now filled the pits with briar dust and Gorilla Glue and allowed it to dry. Once the new fill had time to dry I sanded the areas first with 800 grit sandpaper and finishing with 1000 grit sandpaper.


Now the stem, I applied a generous amount of non-bleach Soft Scrub, leaving it aside to allow the Soft Scrub to penetrate the oxidation. Once the Soft Scrub turns form white to a brownish color its time to scrub vigorously with a rag, scrubbing until all the oxidation has been removed. Holding the stem in natural light will allow you to see if all the oxidation was removed.


Now the ill fitting replacement stem, the tenon fit snug but the stem and shank had a poor fit, the stem was a bit larger then the shank. Starting with 220 grit sandpaper I sanded down the stem until a uniform fit between shank and stem was achieved.At this time I removed any tooth impressions and sanded the entire stem and the end of the shank with 400 grit sandpaper. I went back in with a brown touch up stain marker and re-stained the shank and fill areas. At this time I took care of the missing chunk at the top of the draught, mixing ash with a little water to make pipe mud I filled the missing spot with the mud and allowed it to harden. I checked before sending it off to Clint and the repair was solid.


The button had an odd indentation and was worn down.


I mixed thick black CA glue and charcoal powder together to make a paste, using a toothpick I applied the paste to the button hitting it with accelerator to set the glue.


Using needle files and sandpaper I began to shape a new button.


Now I ran the stem thought the various girts of sandpaper and micro-mesh. Starting with 800 grit sandpaper wet, 1000 grit paper wet, 1500 grit paper wet, 1500 micro-mesh wet, 1800 mesh wet, 2000 grit sandpaper wet, 2400 mesh wet. Then the remaining micro-mesh pads dry 3200-12000.



I finished up on the wheel with white diamond, a few coats of carnauba and a micro-fiber hand buffing. Buffing the stem with blue compound and a few coats of carnauba.

Thanks again Clint the pipes were a pleasure to work on, a nice change from my Custombilt craze . 


Thanks for taking a look.



2 thoughts on “Scoundrels – John Bessai Pot”

  1. These turned out so awesome I haven’t even touched them with my bare hands. After I opened the package you sent I held them with the tissue paper and didn’t even breath in their general direction.


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