Sometimes They Fight Back. A Lee 3-star

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MilesDavis

Starting to Get Obsessed
Jun 16, 2022
107
260
When I received this pipe I expected a simple clean-up and polish. No apparent damage to the stem or rim is a good sign.

20220730_182317714_iOS.jpg

First step is to clean it up. My practice is to take it to the sink, give it a few squirts of full-strength AWESOME, and scrub it with a soft toothbrush--inside and out. Sometimes this will just remove the dirt and smoke. Other times it will take off the wax and any stain. If that happens, it's no big deal. I will just sand away, apply stain if necessary and polish it up. I took this snapshot seconds after hitting the pipe with detergent. You can see how quickly AWESOME does it's thing. It's particularly good with stems. A few squirts and some 600-grit wet/dry sandpaper will take the oxidation away quickly. (I'm not "selling" AWESOME. It works and can be found at the local DOLLARTREE store for (now) $1.25 U.S.)

20220730_215534378_iOS.jpg

The result of this procedure was revealing. First of all, there was a LOT of stain on this pipe. After a thorough cleaning, a stummel will normally be "wood-colored". This fella looks like he was soaked in stain for awhile. It's very dark, and not that greyish "really old briar" color. Why? Lots of fills. Lots and lots of little fills. Sheeesh!

20220730_220820346_iOS.jpg

Okay then. Time to start sanding. And sanding. Starting with 220-grit, I should have cut right through. Nope. After rough sanding I switched to this Dremel wheel that is like a stiff 3M pad to check my progress.

20220730_221537925_iOS.jpg

And here's what I started seeing. Fills and flaws.

20220730_222657583_iOS.jpg

More sanding. Time now to fill the fills. Here's an example. A dab of superglue and briar dust. Wipe it smooth and hit it with an accelerator spray. By this time I'm losing interest and pretty much ready to toss this pipe in the trash.

20220730_225959887_iOS.jpg

The accelerator turns the patch white, and the superglue does not take stain very well. I went with the mahogany dye and polished it up. Tripoli compound and a yellow 1-inch polishing wheel brings the shine to the stem and removes the excess dye from the stummel. Then Diamond Dust compound and a different yellow wheel followed by Carnauba wax with a white polishing wheel. Here's a hint: I load up the waxing wheel and run the Dremel at a high speed. When it hits the pipe, it flashes wet and then turns thick and hazy. The pipe gets a thorough coating, sealing every little pore and protecting the pipe. The wax is on so thickly, that it cannot be just wiped off. I used a "puff-ball" Dremel attachment and buff out the wax. What wax does not get picked up by the fabric of the "puff- ball" melts onto the surface, leaving a very glassy feel.

20220730_234140181_iOS.jpg

20220730_234203509_iOS.jpg

Here's that fill:

20220730_234256606_iOS.jpg

I can't say this pipe was worth the effort. Sometimes they're just like that.
 
Interesting read. It has been my experience that some 3 Star Lees do indeed have some fills. Yours is the worst that I have seen. Anyone who has read my posts on Lees knows I’ve made it clear that the pipe itself is only a bit better than average - or as Lotuseater jokingly refers to as mediocre. I have found them to be well built and a consistently better than average smoke. Some clean up very nicely such as yours. I hope you enjoy your pipe. It will not open up the gates of heaven nor will the universe reveal its secrets as you smoke. Be sure the inside of the stummel is thoroughly clean. It has been my experience that pipes with stingers seem to accumulate gunk in the stummel. Perhaps @Parsimonious Piper will chime in here. He has a lot of experience with Lees and I think has a clear way of talking about them.
 

Parsimonious Piper

Starting to Get Obsessed
Oct 12, 2019
246
625
Perhaps Parsimonious Piper will chime in here. He has a lot of experience with Lees and I think has a clear way of talking about them.
If by that you mean I’m a Lee nut who doesn’t believe the hype…thanks. That’s by far the worst case of fillitis I’ve seen in a Lee, but contrary to some folks’ belief, they do have ‘em. The vast majority of my 3-stars don’t have visible fills, but then I don’t strip them to the briar. I clean lightly with Murphy’s Oil Soap just to remove any surface grime. If a fill isn’t obvious at that point, then I call it good. If it is obvious, well, it’s a fill. Who cares? What I don’t do is strip, sand, and try to repair/fill. The factory guys did that for a living, and it almost always winds up worse than before. But I’m not deluded into thinking their briar was flawless.
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
1,094
2,243
Humansville Missouri
When I received this pipe I expected a simple clean-up and polish. No apparent damage to the stem or rim is a good sign.

View attachment 160389

First step is to clean it up. My practice is to take it to the sink, give it a few squirts of full-strength AWESOME, and scrub it with a soft toothbrush--inside and out. Sometimes this will just remove the dirt and smoke. Other times it will take off the wax and any stain. If that happens, it's no big deal. I will just sand away, apply stain if necessary and polish it up. I took this snapshot seconds after hitting the pipe with detergent. You can see how quickly AWESOME does it's thing. It's particularly good with stems. A few squirts and some 600-grit wet/dry sandpaper will take the oxidation away quickly. (I'm not "selling" AWESOME. It works and can be found at the local DOLLARTREE store for (now) $1.25 U.S.)

View attachment 160390

The result of this procedure was revealing. First of all, there was a LOT of stain on this pipe. After a thorough cleaning, a stummel will normally be "wood-colored". This fella looks like he was soaked in stain for awhile. It's very dark, and not that greyish "really old briar" color. Why? Lots of fills. Lots and lots of little fills. Sheeesh!

View attachment 160391

Okay then. Time to start sanding. And sanding. Starting with 220-grit, I should have cut right through. Nope. After rough sanding I switched to this Dremel wheel that is like a stiff 3M pad to check my progress.

View attachment 160393

And here's what I started seeing. Fills and flaws.

View attachment 160395

More sanding. Time now to fill the fills. Here's an example. A dab of superglue and briar dust. Wipe it smooth and hit it with an accelerator spray. By this time I'm losing interest and pretty much ready to toss this pipe in the trash.

View attachment 160396

The accelerator turns the patch white, and the superglue does not take stain very well. I went with the mahogany dye and polished it up. Tripoli compound and a yellow 1-inch polishing wheel brings the shine to the stem and removes the excess dye from the stummel. Then Diamond Dust compound and a different yellow wheel followed by Carnauba wax with a white polishing wheel. Here's a hint: I load up the waxing wheel and run the Dremel at a high speed. When it hits the pipe, it flashes wet and then turns thick and hazy. The pipe gets a thorough coating, sealing every little pore and protecting the pipe. The wax is on so thickly, that it cannot be just wiped off. I used a "puff-ball" Dremel attachment and buff out the wax. What wax does not get picked up by the fabric of the "puff- ball" melts onto the surface, leaving a very glassy feel.

View attachment 160399

View attachment 160400

Here's that fill:

View attachment 160402

I can't say this pipe was worth the effort. Sometimes they're just like that.
No Lee ever left the factory as glossy as that one turned out.

It was stained tan, and the artisan used the stain to fill flaws.

Lee must have boiled his pipes in stain.

Look how hard it is to remove the stain, even 75 years later.
 
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Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
1,094
2,243
Humansville Missouri
That's why God invented the Ignore button.... puffy
A Lee isn’t magic, but it was an excellently made pipe.

I’ve always wanted to Dremel one down to see how deep the stain was.

That was such a pretty medium Yacht.

My other passionate hobby is shotguns, and over sanding and over finishing a nice old shotgun is common.

But what happened here, was a $25 pipe is still a $25 pipe, it’s just doesn’t look like a Lee anymore.
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
1,094
2,243
Humansville Missouri
I really need to have someone explain how stain can fill a flaw in wood and if it can, why it is that the stain didn't fill in the flaw in the OP's pipe.
I didn’t realize Lee used stain to fill pores and fills until the OP sanded off all the stain on a Lee.

Lee sold three smooth pipes, natural, tan and dark.

I’ve known a long time the natural ones were plainest, and now I realize why.

Stain covers a multitude of sins.:)
 

Briar Lee

Lifer
Sep 4, 2021
1,094
2,243
Humansville Missouri
I've never heard of using stain to fill a pit. Only to cover up a fill of putty.
There isn’t any collector interest in Lees, the same as there is Kaywoodie.

There’s all kinds of old catalogs and advertisements and a wealth of information about a Kaywoodie.

Let’s add a brick today to our knowledge of a Lee Star Grade.

A Lee had a meaningfully improved screw stem with a removable stinger.

Instead of plastic shamrocks early Lees had gorgeous gold inlaid stars.

Lees must have been oil cured

And today we learn Lee had a system of using some kind of stain that covered up a lot of flaws.
 
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