Tag Archives: Custombilt Convertibole

Custom-Bilt Pipe Archive.

Please bare with me while this guide takes shape. I felt even though the post is incomplete the information below would be beneficial to Custombilt collectors. I will periodically update as I gather more info and photos.  Thanks Tim.  


Before my knowledge of the company and it’s founder Tracy Mincer, I was intrigued by by these large ugly pieces of briar. They seemed like misfits in a sea of smooth, small and manicured pipes of it’s time.


Whether your a collector or first time buyer of Custom-Bilt/Custombilt pipes it can be difficult to find information online about the brand. With the help of Bill Unger’s book “Individual As A Thumbprint” The Custom-Bilt Pipe Story, online research and the study of my own Custom-Bilt collection, I have put together a guide to help others lock down dates, makes and the differences between eras. Hopefully this sheds some light on the Custom-Bilt pipe.

Contributors welcome- If you would like to contribute to this post please e-mail me, Tim at Pipesrevival@gmail.com



The unmistakable Tracy Mincer Custom-Bilt, the use of the hyphen between Custom and Bilt was only used during the Mincer years. The introduction year of Tracy Mincer’s Custom-Bilt pipe is a little hazy , 1929 or 1938. From what Bill Unger found in his research, Mincer more than likely started his pipe making in the early 1930’s while working the cigar counter at a drug store in Chicago. The chunky, thick walled and uniquely rusticated pipes of the Mincer era make it easier to tell apart from other Custombilt pipes. 


 Geometric Symbols 

Most but not all Custom-Bilt pipes have a geometric stamp. The purpose of geometric symbol stamps seems to be a mystery, when Unger questioned former owners and employees of Custombilt he received different answers, one was grade and the other size but after the examination of many Bilts he found the same geometric stamp used on a variety of different sizes and grades of  pipes. I have seen a handful of Eugene Rich era Bilts with  geometric stamps as well. i



 Examples of Mincer Era Custom-Bilt Pipes 


 Straight & Saddle Bit Billiards 


 Flat Sided Billiards 




 Lovat & Canadian






 Squat Apple 


 Squat Pot 


 Small Bilts 



 The Tracy Mincer Patented Filter 

Granted to Mincer September 7, 1937. The patented filter is one of the more interesting pipes made by Mincer, the design is unusual there is an aluminum insert that is held by a small plastic rod at either side of the mortise, usually the rod is red but I have seen black rod used as well, it can be difficult to spot the red dot on heavily rusticated pipes. The patented filter faded away at the onset of WWII as aluminum was being collected for the war effort.

The tell-tale red dot of the patented filter.


Box of filters for Mincers patented filter pipe.
Brake down of the patented filter pipe. (Damaged pipe-the patented filter’s aluminum insert was not designed to be removed.)


 Shank-Extension Filter 

The shank-extension filter 1940’s? Finding a complete shank-extension filter is rare many inserts were lost or thrown away. There is no visible sign of a shank-extension unless the stem is removed from the shank. 


 Mincer Era Carved Bilts 

1946-In my six years of collecting I have only seen these two examples of Mincer era carved Custom-Bilt pipes, photos from a fellow collector.

If your a collector and have any other examples I can add to this post please send photos to Pipesrevival@gmail.com 

Billiard Nude close~2PhotoGrid_1497397768096Billiard Nomenclature~2~2Triangle Cust-B Claw side~2Claw Rear End close front~2Triangle on Claw~2Claw Nomenclature~2





 The Pipes 

A Registered mark found on a few Rich era Bilts.






 Saddle Grain 


 Smooth Bilt, Burly Briar

I can not find any information on this Bilt, a fellow collector felt this was a Rich era line. Its the only completely smooth Custombilt I’ve seen other then photos in old advertisements.



 The Miniature Custombilt appeared in the 1940’s-1950’s. The miniature pipe and box would come with a gift certificate from your favorite B&M, the miniature pipe and certificate would then be turned in for a full size Bilt of your choosing. They were non-smoking miniatures made of clay or wood.



 First appeared summer of 1946, nicknamed the wardrobe because of its interchangeable bowls. 


 His Nibs 

 The His Nibs pipe was introduced under Eugene Rich in the summer of 1947, designed for a short smoke while fishing, between classes or intermission at the theater, a smaller pipe but styled after its full size Custombilt counterpart. 

 The first His Nibs I’ve seen with the distinctive Rich era carving, the nomenclature is also slightly different when compared to the more Mincer like carved His Nibs. 

 CB Stub 

Introduced in 1949, a pocket size pipe featuring a full size chamber. 


 Rich Era Masterpieces/Sculptured Bowls 

Appeared 1948, there are a few more examples out there.


The Archer is not listed in Unger’s book, sold on Ebay a while back. I wasn’t lucky enough to win the bid.







Military Mount

 Cased Sets



Custombilt reamers, pipe stands, pipe cleaners


 Courtley and Courtley Supreme 

Introduced in the late 1940’s. Styled by Custombilt each one is unique 






 The Pipes



Other nomenclatures used during the Frank era.



Unger wrote that stamp five was a mystery, out of the hundreds of pipes he had examined only seven had this stamp making it rare in his opinion. Unger also felt these pipes were Eugene Rich and Wally Frank era pipes. The pipes in my collection with there deep craggy carving and the use of the geometric shape symbols point to the Mincer years.20170628104149~2PhotoGrid_1498778294717

These pipes were bought as a set both look to be of the Mincer era, one is the Mincer Custom-Bilt nomenclature and the other the rare nomenclature.

 Other Mincer and Custombilt made Pipes

Many pipes were made


Mr. Dobbs

1950’s made during Mincer’s Doodler years. Made of scrap briar there were riddled with filler.



 Greenwich House Antique

I cannot say for sure but Greenwich House Antique pipes resemble Custombilt pipes but they may have been manufactured by Mastercraft .



 The Doodler




Yorkshire Pipes 

1940’s-1950’s Sold exclusively through Sears Roebuck.


 Miscellaneous Advertisements/Documents 

Contributors here would be incredible, I love seeing old Custom-Bilt/Custombilt advertisements and documents. Online searches gives limited results. Email me, Tim at Pipesrevival@gmail.com  


Custombilt Convertibole

Advertisement courtesy of Bill Unger’s book. “As Individual As A Thumbprint” The Custom-bilt Pipe Story.


Custombilt Convertibole

The elusive Convertibole, its taken two long years to hunt this oddity down. They were always just out of reach. I have an addiction to Custom-Bilt / Custombilt Pipes but I’m not willing to brake the bank to add one to my collection. So I was pretty happy when this one went out cheap on EBAY. The Convertibole  first appeared in 1946 and was distributed by Eugene Rich, the interchangeable bowls made ease in changing between blends.  

As Received


She was in rough shape, well used but the price was right and I was up for a challenge. The shank was cracked, a band would have easily fixed the problem but it would also take away from the pipe itself. So a little unconventional fix would have to do.


Starting with the bowls chamber and my Pipnet reamer, I reamed the cake back to briar starting with the smallest attachment and working up to the third, she was free of any defects. I finished up with 400 grit sandpaper wrapped around a finger.


With the chamber reamed, I moved on to the rim and shank. There was a build up of tar/oils on the rim and where the bowl and shank met. I applied Method Wood For Good Polish to the rim and shank area with a Q-tip and let the Method penetrate the build up. Once the Method penetrated the tars/oils it was easily removed with Q-tips and makeup pads.


I did an EverClear and cotton ball soak on the bowls chamber, leaving it aside to allow the cotton balls to absorb the oils and tars.


The internals were next . I did an initial internal cleaning of the mortise and stem with EverClear,Q-tips and bristle/soft pipe cleaners to remove the loose debris. Now I un-rolled cotton balls to form a long swab , using the swab I twisted it into the mortise tightly and added EverClear until the cotton swab absorbed the alcohol and left it aside to pull the tars/oils out. After sitting I did one more good internal cleaning of the mortise and stem, cleaning the exterior of the stem with EverClear and makeup pads.


Now my unconventional shank fix. I cleaned the area of the crack with EverClear and Q-tips and allowed it to dry. I applied Gorilla Glue to the crack on the outer side of the shank and inner of the mortise with a toothpick then packed the outer shank side with briar dust and applied a hose clamp to the shank and tightened the clamp until the crack was closed. I now left it to dry overnight.


The following morning the repair had cured and I was able to begin work on removing the excess glue, first the mortise,leaving the hose clamp in place I used needle files and sandpaper to remove the excess glue until I had a clean surface for the tennon to be inserted once again. The crack had gone through a rusticated area of the shank which was good luck on my part as I was hoping I could blend the repair into the craggy rustication.( Above photo was attempt one to blend.)


 (Top photo was attempt two.) I used touch up markers ,briar dust ,Gorilla Glue and a X-Acto knife to recreate the rustication lost by the repair patch. By my third try I was happy ,it seemed to blend well.(lower photo)


Happy with the repair my attention now turned to the oxidized stem. I applied a generous amount of non-bleach Soft Scrub with a children’s toothbrush and left it aside to begin softening the oxidation. Once the Soft Scrub turns from white to a brownish color its time to introduce the old elbow grease and scrub vigorously with a rag until the oxidation is removed. Finishing with a damp Magic Eraser to remove the leftover oxidation.


Using a bic lighter I heated the bit/button portion of the stem to raise some of the chatter ( moving the flame at all times never leaving it in one spot too long). There were two impressions that wouldn’t raise with heat but were shallow enough to remove with sanding.


I tapped off the shank with painters tape so my sanding would remain on the stem and not damage the shank. Starting with the bit/button area and 1000 grit wet sandpaper I removed the stubborn impressions that didn’t raise with heat. I now ran the stem through the various grits of micro-mesh 1500-12000.


Just before hitting the wheel I applied Howard’s butcher block conditioner with a rag and let it penetrate for a few minutes removing the excess with a clean rag.




Finished her up on the wheel with white diamond,  a few coats of carnauba and a microfiber hand buffing. Buffing the stem with blue compound .