New wings for a pair of Falcon Pipes

One look at a Falcon pipe and you are transported back in time to the mid-century modern period of design that was characterized by a contemporary, seemingly futuristic aesthetic and an emphasis on function.

“The Mid-century Modern design movement spanned from about 1933 to 1965 and included architecture as well as industrial, interior, and graphic design.”

Architectural Digest

At the stepping off point of this movement, American engineer Kenly C. Bugg invented an alternative tobacco pipe in 1936 combining metal and briar. Kenly Bugg later patented his pipe invention in 1945. The Falcon pipe is a metal pipe with a threaded dish at the end of a metal shank. The pipe has interchangeable Briar bowls of different shapes and finishes that thread into the metal dish of the pipe.

Kenly Bugg claimed that the Falcon Pipe provided the pipe smoker a cooler, dryer smoke. The briar bowls could be cleaned like any other briar pipe, while the metal stem and could be cleaned easily with a pipe cleaner. In fact you could wash it with soap and water if you wanted to.

Falcon Pipes were produced in the United States until the 1960’s, after which production was moved to England.

First Impressions

The first Falcon Pipe is the original design, with a bent stem, and marked “Made in England” which tells me that it was made after 1960’s. There are a couple of dents on the tube that runs down the centre of the stem, probably from getting knocked around all these years. The mouthpiece is made of nylon.

The second Falcon had a more traditional straight body, still had the versatility of the falcon system but the stem could also accommodate a 6mm filter. The metal pipe has a wrap that gives it the brown colour. The wrap had nicks and abrasions that are not going to be corrected without sanding away the coating. The nomenclature was also unreadable, it took me some time to find the “Falcon International” logo to determine that’s what it used to say. The mouthpiece is also made of nylon.

Both of the briar bowls were heavily smoked and had a heavy layer of carbon buildup. The finish of each bowl were worn off and covered with dirt and carbon buildup as well. The base of the briar bowls both had cracks in the bottom. The cracks did not breach the tobacco chamber but would need to be addressed.

Step 1: Carbon Buildup Removal

My pipe reamer set made short work of the carbon buildup located in the upper half of both bowls. I used 100 grit sandpaper to remove the buildup at the bottom portion of the bowl.

Step 2: Clean, Clean, Clean

I used some Murphy’s Oil Soap to scrub the briar bowls, then set them aside to dry while I worked on the stems and mouth pieces of the two Falcons.

The “Falcon international” mouthpiece removed quite easily. The body of the pipe was full of solids. The stem of the standard Falcon was completely clogged, I was unable to pass a pipe cleaner through it. I was able to get them both cleaned out using a combination of alcohol and soapy water.

Both mouthpieces were completely clogged. I soaked them in alcohol to loosen the solids in the stems, and used hot soapy water and a dental tool to pull the grime out of the mouthpieces. In the end I was able to get them completely clean.

I used steel wool to ream the metal bowls of the stems, then used more alcohol to clean the stems, and mouthpieces to an acceptable standard.

Step 3: Repairs

Both briar bowls had cracks in the base of the bowls. Oddly they didn’t breach the walls of the pipe at all. I filled the cracks with an adhesive product called “Chair Doctor” using a syringe. It will soak into the end grain of wood, swell the wood and then freeze the wood in the swollen state as it cures. A film of dry glue lines the wood cells, preventing contraction. It dries clear and is easy to sand and also heat resistant.

Step 4: Refinishing

Both bowls needed to be refinished. I sanded the old finish off both bowls but left the rustication alone on the one. I used Fiebings Light Brown leather dye to restore the colour to both bowls. Afterwards I applied a light coating of mineral oil to help set the stain in the bowls. The mineral oil deepened the colour of the stain including the original stain on the rusticated portion of the one bowl.

Step 5: Stem & Mouthpiece restoration

I began polishing the standard Falcon stem with 0000 Steel wool which worked really well to remove scratches in the metal and get it ready for further polishing. Next I used my microfibre pads and sanded the stem from 1500 – 12000 grit. Lastly I used my rotary tool and a buffing wheel to polish the stem with white diamond. The stem was like chrome when I finished, it looks amazing.

The Falcon logo on the one mouthpiece was discoloured, and despite my best efforts to scrub it white, I was unsuccessful. I decided to use one of my dental tools to remove it. I then used an oil paint pen to fill in the logo again. Once that dried I sanded both nylon mouthpieces with microfibre pads then polished them with white diamond.

Step 6: Final buffing and polishing

I buffed the briar bowls with white diamond, then buffed and polished the bowls and mouthpieces with Carnauba wax. Lastly, both bowls received a waterglass bowl coating (forgot to take pictures) using activated charcoal, white pumice and sodium silicate (waterglass). This will provide a heat shield for the briar and extend the life of the bowls.

The Reveal

Thanks for reading. These two Falcons are ready to fly again! You can purchase the pair of Falcons at the Lunting Bear Store!

Cleaning up a 1976 Dunhill Bruyere (213)

This was the second Dunhill in the lot I acquired in Toronto. On the picture on the right you can see it is similar in size to a Group 1, the Shell Briar at the bottom is my Father’s Group 4 for comparison.

In 1976 a 3-digit system (“Interim”) was developed that showed a logical approach to identify pipes in terms of size & mouthpiece (this was soon to be replaced). Conveniently this pipe is stamped in the exact year that this interim system was developed. The pipe was stamped DUNHILL BRUYERE, (213), MADE IN ENGLAND16. The dating code for pipes from this era was used from 1955 – 1994. From 1970-1994 the date code was determined by adding the double suffix number to the year 1960. In this case the double suffix number is 16, therefore 1960 + 16 = 1976, et voilà!

Pipedia Dunhill Dating Guide

First Impressions

This is one filthy pipe. This pipe was well smoked, carbon buildup was moderate in the tobacco chamber but had also deposited itself on the rim as well bonding with the finish. There was some minor tooth chatter on the stem which wasn’t too badly oxidized and could be fixed easily. The red top finish that a Bruyere is known for was gone, it still had a nice luster but it had faded completely. The Bruyere finish is a brown under stain with a red top coat. That can be remedied easily.

Step 1: Ream & Clean

Several passes with a pipe cleaner were returning black, this was a very long process. It was definitely a favoured pipe of our previous smoker. I scrubbed, and scrubbed, and scrubbed the internals with pipe cleaners until the airway was clean. Lastly I applied a salt and alcohol treatment to the tobacco chamber using Kosher Salt and Alcool. Alcool is food grade alcohol and is 95% Alcohol. I live in Ontario where it is available at the LCBO by permit only (BTW you just email them and they will ask you some questions to ensure you’re not making moonshine then give you the permit).

As you can see, after 24 hours, the salt had turned a nice amber brown colour from all the matter it absorbed from the tobacco chamber. Better in the salt than in the bowl! After this step was complete I performed an alcohol retort on the pipe and drew out any remaining tars and nicotine. With the internals in better shape I moved on to the stem.

Step 2: Stem deoxidation and repairs

Once again I turned to Mark Hoover’s Deoxidizer formula. If you read the other two blogs related to this pipe lot you will see I’m recycling the pictures because the stems all took a bath at the same time. After removing all the deoxidizer and oxidation from the stem, I always use mineral oil to rejuvenate and protect the stem from re-oxidizing. Once the oil has penetrated the vulcanite and dried I wipe it down and begin any necessary repairs.

I was able to pull all the tooth chatter out of this stem using a flame. I used my butane lighter and pass the flame along the bite zone slowly, heating up the vulcanite. Vulcanite has “muscle memory” I guess you could call it, heating it swells the vulcanite back to its orginal form. In this case, sans bite marks. Sometimes the flame will dull the luster of the stems so you almost inevitably need to sand. I started with 800 Grit and work my way up to 12,000 using micro mesh pads. Below is a before and after comparison.

Move the slider back and forth to reveal the before and after

Step 3: Stummel repairs and refinishing

With the stem work complete, I moved my attention back to the stummel. By now all the alcohol in the pipe has evaporated. Passing the pipe under my nose I do not detect any evidence of ghosting whatsoever. Back to the task at hand. Working on the stummel is my favourite and most rewarding part of this hobby. Restoring the finish on a pipe is so satisfying!

As I pointed out earlier, the rim was heavily caked in carbon buildup. Topping the bowl, I decided, was the best remedy. You don’t want to use a really low grit on this other wise you’re going to have to keep sanding to higher grits to achieve a finish grade. For this I’m just using 800 grit. Moving in circular motions, I sand the rim until remove the finish layer.

Once I’ve removed the carbon buildup and the finish layer, I continue in higher grits but only to 1000. We’re not polishing the rim we just want to prepare it receive a stain again. Next I use a stain marker to match the rim to the brown under stain. These stain markers work remarkably well and are perfect for this.

With the rim looking sharp and stained to match the brown under stain, its time to restore the red top stain that the Bruyere finish is known for. For this I turn to Fiebings Dark Red Leather Dye. I use a pipe cleaner to apply the stain to the whole stummel then let it sit for 24 hours. Yeah you can get fancy and Flambé if you like but it also works to just let it rest and absorb the pigment.

Once set, I unwrap the stain using a buffing wheel on my rotary tool and red tripoli to reveal the finished result. This process both unwraps the stain and buffs at the same time. After this I will assemble the pipe and buff both the stem and stummel together with red tripoli, then white diamond and lastly carnauba wax.

Here is the finished pipe!

Restoring the rim of a 1964 Dunhill Tanshell

In 1964 the Beatles were introduced to American and our pipe smoker was introduced to this Dunhill Tanshell billiard. For over 100 years Dunhill has developed a provenance as a world renowned pipe manufacturer, a reflection of a pipe smokers class and style. As a 3rd generation pipe smoker, I have a soft spot for the white spot, made familiar to me by my Father and Grandfather.

“Dunhill Pipes creates some of the highest quality smoking instruments and accessories in the world. They are inventive, glamorous, worldly, effortless and of ultimate quality – the definitive source of pleasure and status for people the world over.”

https://dunhillpipes.com/

For comparison, in the middle is the Group 1 Tanshell featured in this article, at the bottom is my Father’s Group 4 Shell Briar.

The Tanshell finish was introduced in 1952, this pipe is stamped DUNHILL TANSHELL (32) (FT) (1)T (EX). So what does that all mean? Sometimes trying to decipher the stamping on a pipe can be an exercise in futility but thankfully we have some great resources to turn to at the Pipedia Dunhill Dating Guide. As illustrated below, this pipe is a *inhale* Dunhill Tanshell, Shape 32 (32), with a fish tail (FT) stem, Group Size 1T(Tanshell), Made in England4 (1964) *exhale*…phew.

“EX” Stamp & Dunhill Lifetime Warranty

I could not find much about Dunhill’s old warranty policy other than anecdotal information. My Father recalled that Dunhill had a “lifetime” warranty on their pipes. If there was a flaw or an issue with the pipe, simply return it to the place of purchase and it would be replaced with a new pipe.

The “EX” stamp on the stummel above the shape number indicates that the pipe or the stem was replaced within the first year of manufacture. I’m surmising then that Dunhill would stamp the pipe after doing a stem replacement or replacing the pipe thus fulfilling and voiding the warranty.

First Impressions

This pipe was heavily smoked by its previous owner. There was a moderate amount of carbon buildup in the tobacco chamber as well as the rim of the pipe. The carbon buildup had obscured the blast finish on the rim. One can also assume that he was a clencher as there was a lot of tooth chatter on both sides of the stem in the bite area as well as indentations from his teeth.

Step 1: Ream and Clean

I reamed the tobacco chamber and did a cursory clean of the draught hole. Initially it didn’t seem that bad. I used Kosher salt and 94% Alcool alcohol to recondition the tobacco chamber and draw as much matter out of the briar as possible. There was no ghosting present in the pipe prior to the treatment. After a day I returned to see the salt had done its job, however some of the matter leached up the cotton swab and around the shrink wrap I used to plug the mortise with. This pipe needed a thorough cleaning!

Unfortunately I cannot take pictures and do an alcohol retort at the same time, so you’ll have to use your imagination. I can tell you though, on the first pass with the retort, the fluid return almost black. I repeated the process two or three times then scrubbed the internals with bristled pipe cleaners until the draught hole had reached a standard I was satisfied with.

I scrubbed the stummel with undiluted Murphy’s Oil Soap and set it aside while I worked on the stem.

Step 2: Stem Cleaning & Deoxidation

I used Mark Hoover’s Before & After Hard Rubber Deoxidizer for this pipe. You can find all of marks products ====>HERE. I must say it works really well. I have noticed that it works better on what I would categorize as high quality vulcanite vs. what could be a lower grade vulcanite we sometimes see on old estate pipes. The oxidation was virtually gone after an overnight soak.

To remove the product and oxidation from the stem I used a cotton swab to wipe it off into the container, then scrub the stem vigorously with a paper towel. Once it starts getting tacky, I switch to a cotton paid and continue to scrub away the product with mineral oil.

After removing all the product from the exterior and interior of the stem I rubbed it down with Mineral Oil as well as passing a pipe cleaner through the interior of the stem with oil as well. In my experience, the oil dramatically reduces the possibility of the stem oxidizing again.

Step 3: Stem restoration

I used a butane flame on the bite zone to heat the stem. Vulcanite, when heated, will sometimes return to shape. I do this to reduce the need fill the tooth marks with CA Glue. Once I was satisfied with tooth chatter removal, I switched to sanding starting with 320 Grit and progressing up to 1000grit.

After reaching 1000grit I switch to Micro Mesh sanding pads and polished the stem from 1,500 – 12,000.

Step 4: Restoring the Rim

With the stem work complete I turned my attention back the stummel and the rustication on the rim. Although I used minor abrasive methods to remove the carbon buildup on the rim, the detail was too far gone, it was almost smooth. The rim also had evidence of rim charring on the one side. I thought it best to sand the rim, just enough to remove any staining and revealing the charred area. I didn’t need to sand it back to smooth as I fully intend to replicate the blast on the rim manually.

I grabbed a scrap piece of briar to try some different methods to replicate the blast finish. Using my rotary tool and a carving bit, I walked the bit along the rim of the pipe and just let the bit bounce off the surface. This created the craggly part of the finish. I blended that in with a wire wheel on my rotary tool. The results turned out great.

Lastly I used a stain marker to match the rim to the tanshell stain. It is quite impressive how well the stain markers are able to match the original finish. I have Fiebings Leather Dye in my arsenal, but for small repairs such as this, they are ideal. I recommend picking up a decent set from your local hardware store or retailer.

I gave the inner tube a good clean and scrubbed it with some 0000 Steel wool, then reassembled the pipe and polished it with Red Tripoli, White Diamond and then Carnauba Wax. Here’s the finished pipe!