Tag Archives: His Nibs

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  


Re-Stemming A His Nibs by Custombilt



A couple of months ago I picked up a lot of Custom-Bilt and His Nibs pipes that were in poor condition, with things busy around here they were pushed aside until I could dedicate myself to pipes that would need more attention then normal. Now with a little free time I rummaged through the pipe box and came out with a small 4″ His Nibs, the perfect pipe for a quick winters smoke. The His Nibs pipes were 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 is full size Custombilt counterpart. 

The Restore



 This pipe like many others in the lot was well loved, each one smoked within an inch of it’s life. The nomenclature of this Nibs caught my eye it was well stamped, His Nibs over Imported Briar, the chamber held an uneven cake, the rim had a little build up and a scorched area towards the shank. The stem was in rough shape broken off dead center at the bit.


I reamed back the cake with the PipNet and Castleford reamers, starting with the Castlefords smallest attachment, then the PipNets smallest and finally back to the Castleford and its second smallest attachment bring the chamber back to briar, the chamber was free of imperfections.


I decided to re-stem rather then rebuild, the stem itself was an inch and three quarters long and the bit was missing a 6 mm section, so cutting and rebuilding the button was out of the question. I’m confident in my patch repair work if its a bite though but I was unsure if a patch would last in this situation. I started with the stummel, cleaning the mortise with EverClear, Q-Tips and stiff/soft pipe cleaners, cleaning until my final pipe cleaner came out as it went in. I set the stummel aside to dry and moved to cutting the replacement stem.



Before cutting the tenon I drilled the bore with a 1/8 drill bit so the stem could slide onto the Pemo’s guide pin, I then mounted the Pemo tenon turning tool into a variable speed drill. I slid the stem onto the guide pin and adjusted the cutter set screw to make my first pass, removing a couple millimeters of material. I now measured the stock stem for the original length and using a coping saw I cut a few millimeters off the new tenon. Using the stock stem for measurements I made another pass on the tenon cutter until I had a tenon length match, I popped the stock stem onto the tenon cutter and set the cutter to match the tapered end of the stock tenon, I now slid the replacement stem onto the guide pin and cut the taper into the tenon.



Now I slid the stock stem back onto the guide pin and set my cutter to the thickness of the stock tenon, backing it off a bit so my cut of the replacement tenon would not be an exact fit. The final snug fit between tenon and mortise would be achieved by removing the tenon material with 400 and 800 grit sandpaper wet. (You have to take your time here forcing the tenon into the mortise could result in a cracked shank or you risk snapping the tenon.)


Once I achieved a snug fit between tenon and mortise and with the stem face flush with the stummel, I taped off the shank with painters tape to keep my abrasive sanding from damaging the stummel. Using a rotary sanding bit I removed the bulk of the stem material, leaving a step up from shank to stem.


Now switching to 220 grit sandpaper and then made a final pass with an emery board, (you do not want an exact mach between stem and shank at this point there should still be a small step up from shank to stem, there is still plenty of sanding to be done) This is where things get tedious, I removed the painters tape and re-taped the shank with electrical tape, pulling it tight. I now sanded the stem with the finer grits of sandpaper. Using 400 grit sandpaper wet I sanded the saddle until my sandpaper began to hit the lip of the electrical tape (this allows you to know your getting closer to an exact match between shank and stem) , I now moved to 1000 grit sandpaper wet, sanding and removing the tape and re-tapping the shank from time to time to check the surface of the stem and shank (there should still be a very, very small step up from shank to stem at this point) I stopped my work on matching the stummel and stem and began shaping the stem and button using 400, 800 and 1000 grit sandpaper wet.


Once I have achieved the stem and button shape I was looking for I could move to my final sanding. At this point a very, very small step up from shank to stem still remains.


Before my final fit and sanding of the stem I shaped and widened the slot using a slot funneling tool and needle files.


 This is the most time consuming step, using a divider between shank and stem I sanded the stem with 1500 sandpaper wet, sanding until the step up between shank and stem no longer exists. With the fit between shank and stem flush and smooth, I ran the stem with divider still in place through the various grits of micro-mesh 1500-2400 wet and 3200-6000 dry.


Before polishing the stem with the remaining micro-mesh pads I bent the stem slightly using a Bic lighter, by brushing the stem lightly with the flame and bending it over a nail polish bottle. (use care with this method, things can go wrong quick, keep the flame at a distance moving it at all times never leaving it in one spot too long)


With a smooth fit and finish and the slight bend I was looking for I polished the stem with the remaining micro-mesh pads 8000 and 12000 dry.


Above the replacement and stock stem.


With the stem complete it was time to finish the stummel, I applied Method Wood For Good Polish to the rim and left it upside down on a makeup pad for an hour to penetrate the build up. With the build up now softened I removed the debris with Q-Tips and a makeup pad. After cleaning the rim there were a few knock out dings left behind, using a house hold iron set to medium heat and a damp rag I steamed out the imperfections. I placed a damp rag over the rim and applied the rim flat against the hot iron, I would repeat this process a couple of times to get the results I was looking for. At the beginning of the restore I cleaned the mortise only in order to fit the new stem with the stem now complete I continued with the internal cleaning of the stummel and chamber, using EverClear, Q-Tips, stiff/soft pipe cleaners and mortise/shank brushes, cleaning until my final pipe cleaner came out as it went in.


After steaming the rim there were still a few shallow imperfections and a darker area at the back of the rim, using worn 3200, 3600 and 4000 micro-mesh pads I smoothed out and lightened the rim. Before moving on I gave the stummel a wipe down with Method to remove the fine sanding dust and grime.


As a final step before hitting the wheel I applied Howard’s Butcher Block Conditioner using a Q-Tip into the deeper craving of the stummel, left aside to penetrate for a few minutes and removing the excess with a clean rag.




I finished up the stummel with a few coats carnauba and a spin on the nude wheel. Buffing the stem with blue compound, white diamond and carnauba. Hand buffing the pipe as a whole with a microfiber cloth just before the photos.


Thanks For Taking A look


His Nibs ( Custombilt )


The List

Everyone has his or her own, a list of pipes he or she desires to complete a collection. For me its Custom-Bilt and Custombilt pipes, I’ve been collecting these ugly, chunky, roughly carved pieces of briar for a long time and just recently stopped to take a look at what I really had. Originally it was Custom-Bilt pipes ( Tracy Mincer years ) and I had to have everyone I could get my hands on, I’ve redone many. Then Custombilt ( Eugene Rich years ) and a whole new line of pipes went on the list , many hard to find these days and finally the Wally Frank years still Custombilt but the nomenclature had changed, similar to the Rich era nomenclature but the standard S had been dropped for a cursive S. So this brings me to the His Nibs, introduced in 1947 by Mincer and Rich, at 4 inches long its certainly not the biggest Bilt but carved with the same care, retail price just $2.00, worth every penny. My wife picked this one up on Ebay, at last I could cross it off my list, many pop up but I’m picky the nomenclature is hard to find well stamped, sometimes its lightly stamped and other times its off and stamped half on the briar and half on the stem, this one is spot on beautiful. 

The restore



The pipes was in great shape, very light chatter, a couple deeper tooth impressions, rim build up and one spot of filler.


I started with chamber and my PipNet reamer starting with smallest and working up to the largest the chamber would except, in this case the third largest, it has a generous chamber for a 4 inch pipe. I took it back to bare briar to make sure things were solid.


Next the rim build up, I applied Method Wood For Good Polish to the rim with a Q-Tip and left it aside to penetrate the residue. Once the Method works its magic on the build up it is removed with Q-Tips and a children’s toothbrush. There was some rim burn percent after removing the residue, I used worn micro-mesh to lighten it up. ( 3200, 3600, 4000 and 6000 pads )


With the rim complete I turned my attention to the internals of the pipe. Cleaning the chamber, airways and mortise using EverClear, shank & mortise brushes, stiff/soft pipe cleaners and Q-Tips, cleaning until my finial pipe cleaner came out as it went in.


Now I gave the stummel a good cleaning with Method Wood For Good Polish and a children’s toothbrush to remove the oils and embedded debris in the briar.


There was one spot of filler top left photo ) its hard to see but its there, once it was removed the pit was a perfect rectangle, I was tempted to leave it because it was unique but filling it would give it a cleaner look or as clean a look as a Custombilt could have. I cleaned the area to be repaired with EverClear and a Q-Tip,filled the pit with Gorilla Glue and briar dust, I then left it aside to dry. Once dry I lightly sanded the area with worn micro-mesh, re-stained with a dark touch-up marker, removing the excess with an alcohol dampened Q-Tip.


After staining the filled area I realized the whole stummel could be re-stained, using a dark brown touch-up maker I stained the deep crags.


While in the process of removing the excess stain I also re-stained the whole pipe, leaving the deeper carvings darker and the rest of the stummel a lighter shade. Handling the stummel while working on the stem colored the it further, the end result was perfect.


The stem was a little oxidized and had a couple of deeper tooth impressions that needed filling. To remove the oxidation I applied non-bleach soft scrub and left the stem aside to allow the Soft Scrub to penetrate the oxidation. Once the Soft Scrub turns from white to a brownish color its time to scrub vigorously with a rag, adding more Soft Scrub as needed.    ( holding the stem under natural light will help to see if all oxidation has been removed ) I now gave the stem an EverClear wipe down before filling the tooth impressions. I mixed thick black CA glue along with a little charcoal powder to form a paste, I applied the paste with a toothpick, hitting it with accelerator to set the patch and leaving it over night to cure. The following morning I ran the stem though the first three micro-mesh pads 1500-2400 wet.


I now ran the stem though the finial six grits of micro-mesh 3200-12000 dry  During the sanding I uncovered a few pores/bubbles in the rubber stem, there were far to many to attempt to fill, I’ll call them character marks.



I finished up on the wheel with a few coats carnauba and a micro-fiber hand buff, buffing the stem with blue compound and carnuauba.

It was a pleasure to cross this one off the list.


Happy Collecting, Restoring And Puffing.