Tag Archives: Mr.Dobbs

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 

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 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  


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 . 


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.


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.


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,


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.


 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.


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.


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


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.