Bertram Rhodesian/Bulldog Restoration

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mikethompson

Preferred Member
Jun 26, 2016
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I picked up this pipe because I loved the shape, and then read up on some history of Bertram and thought it was an interesting historical piece.

The pipedia page says that Bertram was known as the 'Nation's Pipemaker' based out of Washington DC. They started in 1927, and supplied pipes to many different celebrities and politicians.

Their grading system was something like 10, 20, 30 and so on. The price was also reflected in this grading system, so a 20 grade was $2, and a 50 was $5 etc.

Turns out that in riots following Martin Luther King's assassination the factory was looted and destroyed! The company never really recovered.

This pipe is an 80 grade 'Strate Grain', the shape looks like a 221 to me. I don't know an exact date, can anyone pin it down?



Some shots of the shop:



Here's what Google maps shows as the shop today, it shows a different street number, but maybe the whole block was torn down to build the new tower?

12113

Some before shots of the pipe:

1213012131121321213312134
 

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mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
31,203
15,506
Handsome pipes, bulldog and Oom-Paul. The shaping on the 'dog is unique and tasteful. I have a Johs bulldog a little like that bowl, but not quite as stylish.
 

mikethompson

Preferred Member
Jun 26, 2016
5,817
3,903
Thanks guys. The colouring is very faded on one side, I'm not sure if that comes through in the pictures or not. But I just did a little dab of water on there and the grain really popped - I can't wait to see how it is when it is all cleaned up, oiled, and polished.
 

hoppes

Member
Mar 15, 2017
184
146
Mike: Thanks for the history and pictures. I learned very early that Bertram was a great value in high end pipes. There is some mention that Stalin even smoked a Bertram?? Here's the stable I have collected over the years. Smoke 2 of them which are at the top of my best smoker list. All 80 and above. Bulldog looks like yours. They have no shape marks but the bulldog is marked with an S ?? Thanks, Hoppes
12183
 

mikethompson

Preferred Member
Jun 26, 2016
5,817
3,903
Mike: Thanks for the history and pictures. I learned very early that Bertram was a great value in high end pipes. There is some mention that Stalin even smoked a Bertram?? Here's the stable I have collected over the years. Smoke 2 of them which are at the top of my best smoker list. All 80 and above. Bulldog looks like yours. They have no shape marks but the bulldog is marked with an S ?? Thanks, Hoppes
View attachment 12183
Hoppes, that bottom one is definately the same shape as mine. What grade is that? As for the 'S' stamp, I have no idea. Mine doesn't have anything like that one there. Were you able to narrow down any production dates at all?

Very nice collection by the way. I hope mine cleans up half as nice as that one!
 

mikethompson

Preferred Member
Jun 26, 2016
5,817
3,903
I found this great little article about the Bertrams factory.

Article

Here's a snippet:

" In September 1966, when burglars entered the shop through a skylight and made off with $25, Bertram's responded by installing a metal sheet over the skylight. As if offended by this rebuke, the burglars returned a week later, pried away the metal, and this time made off with almost $4,000 worth of cigarette and pipe lighters, hunting knives, and amber figurines."

:oops:
 

bnichols23

Preferred Member
Mar 13, 2018
3,534
4,391
SC Piedmont
I found this great little article about the Bertrams factory.

Article

Here's a snippet:

" In September 1966, when burglars entered the shop through a skylight and made off with $25, Bertram's responded by installing a metal sheet over the skylight. As if offended by this rebuke, the burglars returned a week later, pried away the metal, and this time made off with almost $4,000 worth of cigarette and pipe lighters, hunting knives, and amber figurines."

:oops:
Sheesh, vindictive little miscreants, weren't they?? Beautiful pics, Mike. Of course you know me. I'm a true sucker for a bent bulldog.
 

mikethompson

Preferred Member
Jun 26, 2016
5,817
3,903
I did my usual soak/magic eraser/micromesh, but the stem is not getting any cleaner looking. Also, the oxidation that was coming was off wasn't the usual brown/tan, but black.

Is this a different form of vulcanite? Or plastic?

I'm not too sure how to proceed with it.

Here's a shot before the micromeshing:

1252212523
 

ssjones

Moderator
Staff member
May 11, 2011
15,097
2,153
Maryland
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I was told that they used pre-molded stems, and enjoyed a lot of cheap labor via veterans to finish the pipes. The stems were vulcanized I believe, but probably low end. Not surprisingly, we find a lot of the single digit pipes in area junk shops, etc. But not many 80 pipes! It's almost impossible to date one. As a boy, we would have been in that area of DC for school trips, etc. But of course I would have had no interest in pipes.
 
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mikethompson

Preferred Member
Jun 26, 2016
5,817
3,903
I was told that they used pre-molded stems, and enjoyed a lot of cheap labor via veterans to finish the pipes. The stems were vulcanized I believe, but probably low end.
The stem certainly had a different feel to it than my other pipes. More coarser? I'd like to bring it to a shine though, I love the shape of the pipe and it would be a shame to let a stem ruin it.

I love it, that looks like a mighty fine squat bulldog!
thanks! The more I look at it the more I like it!
 

ssjones

Moderator
Staff member
May 11, 2011
15,097
2,153
Maryland
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The stem certainly had a different feel to it than my other pipes. More coarser? I'd like to bring it to a shine though, I love the shape of the pipe and it would be a shame to let a stem ruin it.



thanks! The more I look at it the more I like it!
Exactly why I prize stems from certain British makers, to me, the stem makes the pipe.
 
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hoppes

Member
Mar 15, 2017
184
146
Mike: The Bertram stems seem to be more granular especially on the diamond surfaces. In order to remove oxidation you really have to physically remove it ie: sanding. I start with p 600-800 silicon paper wet sanding until most of the junk is gone. Look at the stem with magnification---you can see where the oxidation still is present. I work up to p1200 then go to the buffing wheel with Menzerna (green ) then Tripoli, then white diamond, then premium white. I then hand buff with Griots compound.and finish with Obsidian oil. You must be careful not to be too aggressive. It's a rather long process but gives very nice results that seem to last. The Bertrams will shine up quite nicely but still have some granularity. Go for it and let us see the results.! Hoppes
 

mikethompson

Preferred Member
Jun 26, 2016
5,817
3,903
Mike: The Bertram stems seem to be more granular especially on the diamond surfaces. In order to remove oxidation you really have to physically remove it ie: sanding. I start with p 600-800 silicon paper wet sanding until most of the junk is gone. Look at the stem with magnification---you can see where the oxidation still is present. I work up to p1200 then go to the buffing wheel with Menzerna (green ) then Tripoli, then white diamond, then premium white. I then hand buff with Griots compound.and finish with Obsidian oil. You must be careful not to be too aggressive. It's a rather long process but gives very nice results that seem to last. The Bertrams will shine up quite nicely but still have some granularity. Go for it and let us see the results.! Hoppes
Hoppes, thanks for your response! Certainly more steps than I am used to! I don't have many of those materials, but I am going to use a light hand and the materials I have. It will look better than it did.
 

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