Tag Archives: Custombilt

Custom-Bilt (Mincer Era)

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. Mincer Era Custom-Bilt .

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I love when auctions go this way , I only wish I was the one who won it. My wife took a chance on this one and gave it to me for Christmas. Sure enough its a Custom-Bilt, the nomenclature is worn or lightly stamped but its there. I have so many in my collection and I talk about them constantly she knows exactly what to look for.

As Received

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She was in rough shape when received, thick crumbling cake, stem oxidation and the tennon was glued into the mortise. Once the the glue was removed from the tennon and mortise, I realized the glue was the previous owners attempt to fix a loose fitting stem. In my excitement Christmas morning I had already removed the glue. Using EverClear I filled the chamber and left it to soak, eventually I was able to free the stem from the stummel.

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I set the stem aside to come back to and started with the stummel. I started with my Pipnet Reamer and the smallest attachment and worked up to the third attachment, finishing up with 400 grit sandpaper wrapped around a finger. The chamber was well preserved from the thick cake, no cracking or pitting.

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Next the rim tar and char, I applied a generous amount of Method Good For Wood Polish with a Q-tip and allowed it to penetrate the residue. I had to repeat the process a few times to remove all the build up, using Q-tips.

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After freeing the tennon from the mortise Christmas morning there was still glue leftover one the stem, mortise and tennon. I used EverClear Q-tips and makeup pads to remove the rest of the glue.


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I did a quick internal cleaning to remove the loose debris using EverClear, Q-tips and stiff/ soft pipe cleaners. I then did an alcohol and cotton ball soak on the chamber allowing it to absorb the oils and tars, leaving it overnight.

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The following morning I decided to run a retort using EverClear and cotton balls. I then cleaned the internals of the stummel and stem with EverClear,Q-tips,cotton balls and stiff /soft pipe cleaners, cleaning until the pipe cleaners came out as they went in.

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The stummel was pretty caked with dirt and oils. I wiped down the stummel with EverClear and makeup pads making sure I got into the crags.

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Next the rim dings, using a household iron on medium /high heat and damp rag. I  covered the rim with the damp rag and applied the rim to the hot iron working in intervals until the imperfections were almost gone.

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Happy with the rim, I now applied Howard’s butcher block conditioner to the stummel using rag and Q-tip to get into the deeper crags and left it aside for a few minutes to penetrat. Hand buffing off the excess.

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The stem was heavily oxidized, I applied non-bleach Soft Scrub to the stem with a children’s toothbrush and left it aside to penetrat the oxidation. Once the Soft Scrub turns from white to a brownish color its time to scrub vigorously with a rag until the oxidation is removed. I would repeat this process a few times and finish with a damp Magic Eraser to remove the leftover oxidation.

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The loose fitting tennon, I heated the tennon with a Bic Lighter (moving the flame at all times never leaving it in one spot too long) and inserted the tip of round tipped jewelry pliers into the tennon and slowly expanded the tennon from the inside out until a snug fit between mortise and tennon was achieved.

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I now ran the stem through the various grits of sandpaper and micro-mesh. I tapped off the shank with blue painters tape so my sanding would remain on the stem. I removed what little chatter there was with 1000 grit sandpaper wet and then moved on to the miro-mesh pads 1500-2400 wet and 3200-12000 dry. She was now ready for the wheel.

Complete

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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.

Thanks For Taking A Look.

 

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Custombilt Convertibole

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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 (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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Complete

 

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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 .

Custombilt Bent Billiard (Rich Era)

The scoundrel Pipes

The pipes I received from fellow blogger Clint of Pipe Scoundrel are complete. They have a new home and are ready to be enjoyed once again. This trio of Bilts has been an eye opener, I believe there will be many more Rich era Custombilts in my future.

The last pipe as received

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The nomenclature was stamped unevenly but I could still make out the tell tail (S) of Eugene Rich era Bilts.

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The last of the trio a large bent billiard. Much like the last shes in pretty descent shape. The cake is a little thicker, the tennon would need tightening, rim tar&char, there is a little filler present and light chatter.

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I started off with the smallest attachment of my Castleford reamer and moving on to the largest that the chamber would except in this case it was one up from the first. I finished up with 400 grit sandpaper. The chamber was free of pitting or the start of a burn out.

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Now for the rim, it was thick with tars and build up. I applied a generous amount of Method Good For Wood Polish to a makeup pad and left the stummel upside down so the polish could soften the build up. I would have to repeat this process a couple of times to remove all the debris, using a children’s toothbrush and Q-tips. I have also uncovered a couple of dents on the rim that I will address later on.

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With the rim clean I moved to the chamber and mortise. I did a quick clean of the internals with EverClear and Qtips to remove the loose debris. Now the soak, I unrolled a cotton ball and formed a long swab, using the swab I twisted it into the mortise tightly. I now filled the chamber a quarter of the way with EverClear and allowed the swab to absorb the alcohol. Once the alcohol is absorbed I filled the chamber with two cotton balls and added EverClear to the cotton balls untill saturated. I now set the stummel aside while I worked on the stem.

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I started the stem by cleaning the exterior first with EverClear and a makeup pad, then the internals with EverClear and stiff/soft pipe cleaners, cleaning until the pipe cleaner came out as it went in.

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Now the oxidized stem I applied non-bleach Soft Scrub with a children’s toothbrush and left aside until the Soft Scrub turns from white to a brownish color.

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Now the elbow grease, I  now scrubbed the stem vigorously with Soft Scrub and a rag to remove the oxidation

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Finishing with a damp Magic Eraser to remove the leftover oxidation. The surface still has a rough texture and would need to be sanded.

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The stem had a couple of tooth impressions, using a Bic lighter I heated the area of the impressions (moving the flame at all times never leaving it in one spot too long). I was able to raise a few but one was stubborn and would need filling.

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I roughed up the area to be repaired with 400 grit sandpaper, then wiped the area with an alcohol dampened rag. I made a paste using thick black CA glue and activated charcoal power and applied it to the impression with a toothpick, hitting it with accelerator to set the patch.

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After allowing time for the paste to cure I removed the excess using a needle file. I smoothed out the repaired area with 400 grit sandpaper .

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I now ran the stem though the various grits of sandpaper and micro-mesh 1000-2400 wet and 3200-12000 dry.

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The tennon was loose upon receiving the pipe. I used jewelers pliers and a Bic Lighter to expand the tennon from the inside out, by heating the tennon with the lighter and inserting the tip of the pliers into the tennon gradually untill a snug fit between mortise and tennon was achieved.

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With the stem complete I moved on to the stummel. After sitting for an hours or so the cotton balls had time to absorb some of the tars. The chamber was clean but I would have to repeat the process on the mortise a few more times. Then finishing up the mortise and draught with  EverClear, Q-tips and stiff/soft pipe cleaners until the pipe cleaners came out clean.

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Now to address the rim dents and darkening.

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Using a hot iron and a damp rag I steamed the dents out and lightened the rim darkening with worn micro-mesh.

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There were three spots of filler present that would have to go.

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I applied Method Wood For Good Polish to the filler and let it soften up for a few minutes.

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Using a pick and X-acto knife I removed the light colored filler.

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I refilled with briar dust and Gorilla Glue and left aside to dry.

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I removed the excess glue with worn miro-mesh, then stained the new fill with a touch up marker, lighting up the color to match with an alcohol dampened Q-tip.

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I now wiped down the stummel with Method polish and let dry. Next Howard’s butcher block conditioner, using a Q-tip I worked the Howard’s into the crags and then applied Howard’s to the whole stummel letting it penetrate for a few minutes, hand buffing the excess off with a clean rag. She was now ready for a final buff.

Complete

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Finished her up on the wheel with white diamond, a few coats of carnauba and a microfiber hand buff.

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The Gang all together.

 Clint your generosity is greatly appreciated. The pipes are beautiful and right at home in my collection.

Mr.Dobbs takes a vacation

Mincers scraps

Scrap briar or not I still enjoy the look of Mr.Dobbs pipes. Deeply carved and chunky. There’s no mistaking who made this line of pipes.

( As Received)

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Well loved Mr.Dobbs has been sitting in a box for some time now. Made in the 1950s using scrap briar and sold at reasonable price for the average joe, it has all the look and feel of a Custombilt with the exception of the briar quality. There were many imperfections most notably the top of the bowl. It had a thick cake, worn button and what I think is paint or maybe spackle spread across the exterior of the pipe. I received this pipe in a lot a few months ago among other Custombilt lines . 

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I began with the chamber and my Castleford reamer, starting with the smallest and working up to the largest. Finishing with 400 grit paper wrapped around a finger.

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With the chamber reamed I moved to the rim. The rim was heavily caked with spots of paint mixed in. I applied Method wood for good polish to the rim and left it aside to soak. After soaking for 20 min I used a toothbrush to break up some of the residue, I would have to repeat this process a few times and move to Q-tips, make-up pads and a pick to complete it. At this time I cleaned the exterior of the pipe as well with the wood polish,toothbrush and make-up  pads. I used a pick to clean the paint and debris out of the carving of the bowl.

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The right side of the bowl and bulldog ring had spots where someone may have smacked the bowl against a hard surface to empty the chamber. I first attempted steaming out some of the dents. With no luck, I instead filled in the indentations with thick superglue and briar dust. I sanded the area with micro mesh until the repair was even.

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The chamber looked as if someone may have used a pocket knife in the past to remove the cake from it the edges were gouged . Using 220, 400 and 1000 grit paper around a finger I worked carefully at the top of the chamber to remove the gouging,

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The mortis and draft were heavily caked with tars and old tobacco it would need to be cleared before going any further. I un-rolled cotton balls and twisted them together to form a long swab. Using the swab I turned it tightly into the mortise and then filled the chamber with a little EverClear and waited for the alcohol to be absorbed. Letting it soak for a bit, I removed the swab and cleaned the mortise / draft with stiff pipe cleaners and shank brush until the draft was clear.

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With the draft cleared it could now receive a retort . I cleaned the internals one last time after the retort with Q-tips, cotton swabs and stiff / soft pipe cleaners.

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 With the bowl ready for a buff I moved to the stem, starting with non-bleach Soft Scrub . I scrubbed the stem vigorously with cotton balls and a rag until the oxidation was removed.

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I tapped off the shank so I wouldn’t disturb the finnish with my sanding . Starting with a 400 grit wet sand, I sanded the bit/ lip area to remove some of the tooth impressions and to rough up the surface so the CA glue repair would have a good hold . I then wet sanded the entire stem with 1000 grit paper and then wiped down the stem with alcohol . I would repair the worn button first by first tapping off the area of the repair. I mixed thick black CA glue and activated charcoal powder into a paste and applied it to the button spreading it evenly across the surface. I let it setup for a few minutes, then I removed the painters tape and sprayed the repair with accelerator.

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I now filled in one stubborn impression on the bit with the paste and sprayed it with accelerator . I left it overnight to cure.

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The following day after curing overnight I began forming the new button, using needle files and 400 grit sandpaper. I tapped off the bottom side of my needle file so I could get the file  flush against the new button. I then sanded the stem with 1000 grit sandpaper to remove the file marks.

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I worked though the various micro mesh pads.

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 Next I gave the bowl a quick sand with worn micro mesh to bring out the final shine. I applied a little Howard’s butcher block conditioner with a rag working it into the nooks and crannies and letting it soak for a few minutes, removing the excess with a clean rag.

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Final buff with white diamond, carnauba and a micro fiber hand buffing.

One More For The Case.

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My ever-growing collection of Custom-Bilt pipes, it has indeed outgrown it’s display case. Originally meant to house my small Tom Howard and Custom-Bilt collection has turned into an overflowing collection of Custom-Bilt pipes alone. Before my knowledge of the company and it’s founder Tracy Mincer, I was intrigued by these large and ugly pieces of briar. They seemed like misfits in a sea of smooth,small and manicured pipes of it’s time.

Custombilt pipes are not all created equally which I soon found out. My first Custom-Bilt purchase three years ago was more of an accident, an older woman the owner of an antique shop in Troy N.Y. had listed a pipe in her EBay shop, poor photos and little information let it slip by unnoticed , I decided to pull the trigger. I was surprised upon receiving the pipe it was big, bulky and roughly carved but comfortable in the hand. On the underside of the pipe was the words Imported Briar and Custom-Bilt I instantly fell in love with the pipe. Now the research began, I found the company founder was Tracy Mincer and the name Custombilt later changed hands multiple times and with the change of hands came the change in quality.  I own only a couple of the un-hyphenated examples there rustication and use of filler is unappealing to my eye. My focus is on the Mincer era 1934-1946 pipes (Custom-Bilt)I have found zero filler in these.

Last month thanks to my wife and Jeff of the NASPC I received a copy of Bill Ungers book- As Individual as a Thumbprint: The Custom-Bilt Pipe Story. A whole new world opened, the information in Bills research and writings is priceless to a collector. I now know much more then I did three years ago.

My latest purchase via EBay is no different thick, bulky and beautiful with the exception of a small rubber filter insert which I have two others in my collection one with it’s insert and one without. I have become addicted to finding these oddities, the filter inserts were usually misplaced or simply tossed but this one is complete.

The pipe when received.

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Custom-bilt was stamped on the left side, on the right side a triangle and there was no evidence of Imported Briar having been stamped anywhere . The same is true with the two others in my collection.

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Custom-Bilt was lightly stamped or worn over time.  From my experience it’s common in Pre-1946 pipes.

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It appeared untouched by someone like myself which is always a  good start ,it seems everyone on EBay is refurbishing now and not always for the good of the pipe  . Overall she was in good shape upon receiving, a bit of fossilized cake, build up around the rim and only faint chatter/ oxidation on the stem. The button was worn and would need attention as well. Now the fun could begin.

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   After looking over and disassembling the pipe I set aside the stem to come back to later. I started with the bowls chamber and my Castleford reamer , beginning with the smallest reamer always keeping it centered and working up to the largest that the chamber would accept,in this case it would accept the largest. Finishing up with 400 grit sandpaper wrapped around a finger. I always take my estates  back to briar to be able to see the start of a burn out/damage , the chamber was free of burning or cracks.

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   Next my attention turned to the caked rim.

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 I started  by applying a generous amount of Method wood for good polish with a Q-tip and letting it penetrate the build up . I let it sit from  15min/30min depending on the severity. After letting it penetrate I used a children’s  toothbrush to break up some of the tars.

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Next I used makeup pads, Q-tips, the toothbrush and kept working at the area until the build up was removed. At this time I cleaned the exterior of the bowl with the wood polish ,toothbrush and Q-tips  as well.

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Next the internals. The draft and mortise were  plugged with tars and old tobacco. It would need to be cleared before receiving a retort.

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Using a pick set, shank brushes, stiff bristle pipe cleaners ,Q-tips and EverClear I cleared the blocked airway. Next I unrolled cotton balls and then twisted them together to form a long cotton swab.

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Using the twisted cotton swab I turned it into the mortise tightly. I then filled the chamber with a little EverClear and waited for the swab to absorb the alcohol. Then I filled the chamber with three cotton balls and soaked them with EverClear. I would set the bowl aside to let the alcohol and cotton balls absorb the leftover tars/ghosting.

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With the bowl set aside I moved on to the stem.  I Cleaned the interior and exterior using EverClear, cotton balls, small shank brush and stiff/soft pipe cleaners. I worked the interior until the pipe cleaners came out as they when in.

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It appeared that the filter end at one point was removed using pliers there were deep grooves imbedded in the  rubber. Using a Bic lighter I carefully heated the area until the indentations were all but gone. I will finish it up later on with micro mesh.

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Using a children’s toothbrush I applied non-bleach Soft Scrub and let set for 10min as it soaks into the oxidation the Soft Scrub turns from white to a brown color. Now comes the elbow grease.

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After the Soft Scrub had time to work into the oxidation, I scrubbed the stem with a Magic Eraser  and a rag until the oxidation was removed. I then heated the stem with a bic lighter (moving the heat source at all times never leaving it in one area too long) at the bit/lip area to raise some of the tooth impressions (I also use a heat gun) .

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After the Soft Scrub and heat the stem was left with a rough surface, some of the impressions had risen but the button would still need work.

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 I was now able to concentrate on the worn button. I roughed up the surface of the stem by wet sanding with 400 grit sandpaper I tapped off the shank of the pipe so I wouldn’t round the edges of the stem. ( I will also use a washer in between the shank and stem.)

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After sanding I wiped down the stem with alcohol. I then made a paste by mixing thick black CA glue and activated charcoal powder. With a toothpick I applied the paste to the button trying to keep it as even as possible. Once I was happy with the shape I sprayed it with accelerator.

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With the paste now hardened I used a needle file to begin forming a new button. I tapped the underside of the file so I could get the file flush against the button to form a sharp edge without cutting into the bit.

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As I began removing the surface of the new button I uncovered holes where bubbles had formed. The process of mixing the paste and applying it would have to be repeated.

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After reworking the button and finding  a suitable thickness I moved onto the stem itself . Wet sanding with 1000 grit sandpaper then moving through the various grits of micro mesh. Now it was ready for the buffer.

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I allowed the bowl to soak for a few hours. The chamber looked good but I would repeat the process on the mortise several  times until the cotton swabs came out clean.

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  The chamber and mortise were free of the visual residue but the ghost still remained . The previous piper was a fan of aros.

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I ran it through a retort to remove the ghosting . I have adapted my retort to fit the bowl alone, there was no need to include the stem as my previous cleaning removed the ghosting from it. This also comes in handy with stems that maybe damaged by the alcohol.

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The rim was darker towards the shank ,I used a worn micro mesh pad to remove some of the darkening. With all my Custombilt, BP Jum, Marxman and Tom Howard pipes I apply a small amount of Howard’s butcher block conditioner. I work it into the deep grooves and the pipe itself with a rag and let it soak in for a few minutes.I remove the excess with a clean rag and give it a quick hand buff.

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It was now off to my makeshift buffer, a hand drill clamped in a drill press vice with a drill mounted buffing kit. My original bench buffer burnt out three years ago,out of necessity I came up with this, the results met my expectations. I started with white diamond, than a few coats of carnauba and finishing up with a micro fiber hand buffing.

Here she is.

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