blog by Al Loria
I came across this pipe a few months ago in a lot buy with another pipe which the seller thought was unmarked because of prior wear and polishing. But, with a loop and bright light I could see it was Mincer era Custom-Bilt. Score one for me!
This is one of the odder Custombilts I’ve come across. The nomenclature is different than any other I’ve seen. It is the old script logo, but does not have the dash between Custom and Bilt, and only the C in Custombilt is capitalized. There is a square stamped on one side of the stummel, which I have seen before, and imported briar on the bottom. It is a short, saddle-bit billiard with a slightly canted bowl.
The overall condition was good. No major dings, little tar on the rim, the chamber was in very good shape and solid. There was some wear on the nomenclature and the stem was oxidized and loose. The stem had minimal tooth chatter and was slighted dented just past the button.
I started on the stem by using Bar Keepers Friend applied with a Qtip. After about five minutes I rubbed the stem with another Qtip until the oxidation is lifted. I find this method faster than an Oxyclean bath when the stem is not badly oxidized, as this one was. After washing off the stem in running water I went to the task of sharpening the button with needle files. The button had one tooth dent at the inner edge that was not all that bad, so I got it close to perfect rather than using black CA to fill it. I then went to the 600 grit paper then micro mesh pads from 1500-12000 grit. The stem was thin and thought it best not to over sand the slight teeth marks. Using a method I learned from Steve L., I inserted the tenon into a plastic card so I could preserve the stem’s shoulder while sanding.
It was time to fit the tenon to the mortise. I’ve done this many times before, but this wasn’t going to be my day. I heated the tenon with a Bic lighter and inserted a drill bit only slightly larger than the hole. Everything was going according to plan whensuddenly, the drill bit got stuck in the stem as the tenon cooled. I put a needle nose pliers to the bit and gently twisted and pulled. Well, I guess the twist wasn’t gentle enough. The end of the tenon split at the smaller step down. I had to reheat the tenon to get the drill bit out. I managed to remove it and promptly freaked out.
At first, I thought the stem was ruined, but the cracks stopped before the tenon proper. It was time to get out the heavy equipment. The Dremel with a cutoff disc worked well to cut off the cracked part of the tenon. Let me tell you, the smell of vulcanite being subjected to heating from cutting is a smell you don’t want to be near, especially in a less than well ventilated area. I was in the basement. Enough said. I used a sanding stone on the Dremel to flush up the end of the tenon. Turned out to be a fine job. I went ahead, again, and heated the drill bit and pushed it into the end of the tenon. This time it worked like a charm.
It was time to turn my attention to the stummel. The chamber only needed a touchup with the tri-corner reamer. I sanded the inside of the bowl with 400 grit around my finger leaving a thin layer of cake. The tar on the rim was minimal and it came off with Qtips and saliva after which I sanded It with 600 grit.The bowl I rubbed down with Everclear on cotton balls. At that time there were fills that had become visible. Using a dental pick I was able to remove the softened fill.
The mortise was loaded with tars that had built up and hardened. The retort needed to be used to penetrate the tars and make them able to be removed. After using the retort three times the alcohol was able to liquefy and remove a good deal of the sticky crud. It required shank brushes, Qtips and pipe cleaners to remove the balance of the accumulated brown goop.
A product called Plastic Wood was used to repair the fills. The pipe was now ready to have the fills and the rim stained. The grooves of the rustication I darkened with black stain. This stain pen was new to me and I was surprised how thick the stain/finish combination was. I needed to apply and rub out the stain before bringing the pipe to the buffing station. Using Red Tripoli, White Diamond and Carnauba wax on the stummel and stem the finish began to come up nicely.
This is the finished pipe. Thanks for looking.