Two Little GBDs

13th November, 2006: Posted by glpease in Pipes


Over the past few months, I’ve managed to acquire a couple of rare GBD 9438s, saddle rhodesians. I love the shape, but only seek out those that are unusual at this point. I’ve been chasing a Granitan and a Rockroot in the shape for years, and finally scored. (For some reason, while the shape is quite common, it seems to be quite rare in these finishes.)

The Rockroot came from a fellow 9438 aficionado, the Granitan from ebay. Both arrived in serious need of some restoration work. The stems were not in great shape, but everything was there to ensure they’d turn into really nice pipes. Last night, suffering from some sort of back trauma of unksnown cause that’s keeping me from being my usual hyperactive self, I sat in front of some mindless flick on the tele (I know - it’s redundant) with sandpaper (400, 800, 1000, 1500, 2000 grit Wetordry) and the pair of stems, and began the work.

The work went smoothly (excuse the pun), and within what seemed a relatively short time, mind numbed successfully by the one-eyed, electronic anesthesiologist, the stems were again black, relatively free of tooth indentations, and ready for the final polish.

I managed to haul myself vertical long enough to wander down to the shop, and put the things to the wheel for the final buff. In restoring these things, the real work should be done with the paper. The lines can be kept true, the shape held to the original, and the edges kept clean, straight and sharp. If too much time is spent on the wheel, ripples and waves invariably result, and edges turn into radii. If everything is prepared well with the paper, the final buffing should only take a few minutes on the wheel with gentle kiss of rouge.

A final touch of carnuba, and both pipes were ready for the acid test. How did they smoke?

The observant will notice that I neglected to mention any cleaning steps. In fact, I completely neglected any cleaning, which is why I didn’t mention it. What a mistake, at least in the case of the Granitan. The seller had done an excellent job of reaming the cake back to a very thin, even layer, but had not bothered to clean the shank. The first few puffs revealed the problem, and even a thin cleaner was difficult to get through the shank.

Normally, a few pipe cleaners and a little alcohol would solve the problem, but this warranted more drastic measures; the drill. It was quick work to drill the shank back out to its original dimension, plus a couple thousandths, for good measure. While I was at it, I decided to chamfer the tenon’s inlet a bit, to prevent any possibility of gurgle. (The tenon inlet hole was, as is too common in some pipes, slightly smaller than the shank’s airway diameter. This, coupled with a fairly wide gap between the end of the tenon and the mortise floor is almost a guarantee of gurgle.)

I have hope for the Granitan. While the bowl is haunted by the ghosts of tobaccos past, some saucy aromatic akin to the good Captain (Black, not Crunch, though it might be hard to tell the difference in some cases) that does not get along well with Latakia blends, I think I’ll be able to, with a combination of smoking and my activated charcoal/hot oven treatment (cf. Out Damn Spot), be rid of it, eventually. Overall, the pipe now smokes well, if strangely flavored, and the tobacco burns effortlessly to the bottom, without even a hint of percolation.

The Rockroot was in better shape, having been well-smoked by a lover of Virginias, and only needed a couple of pipe cleaners to make it good to go. I found the internals to be adequate without any modifications, and it’s destined to be a fine pipe, delivering a nice, rich smoke.

My little collection of the shape has grown by two, and I’m a happy guy. Now, if I could just find them with clear Perspex stems, and a nice Prehistoric while I’m at it…