Monthly Archives: July 2012

A WDC Milano Hesson Guard Reworked


I just worked over this old timer – A WDC Milano Hesson Guard. In order to know more about the pipe I was working on I searched for information regarding the patent number stamped on the pipe and went to the US Patent site where I found documentation. The patent was filed for it in 1932. It is an early example of the pipe. It is in the acorn shape. It has the patent number stamped on it as well as the other WDC labels. The triangle on the stem is silver or steel inlay. For me this is a part of the mystery of unpacking the history and life of the brand and mark. I always like to know as much of the back story as I can find on any of the pipes I refurbish. Patent numbers stamped on the pipe provide a means of ferretting out information on the design and the particular part of the pipe that is patented. I have included the patent site information on the pipe for your reading pleasure. At least to me this part is fascinating information.

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The pipe was caked with a crumbly thick cake that pretty much filled the bowl when I picked it up. I reamed it out to field dress the pipe. I generally do this with most of the pipes I bring home for renewal. It keeps the mess of the carbon from the cake outside and away from my work desk. In the photos below you can see that the finish was pretty dirty with a lot of hand oils and grease ground into the bowl surface. The rim was caked and tarred and it looked like it was damaged. The finish was worn and the stain faded in many places on the bowl sides. The stem was oxidized and had some bubbles in the surface along the button – the bubbles are visible near the button in the second photo below.

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I scrubbed the exterior of the pipe with Murphy’s Oil soap, undiluted. I wipe it on with a cotton cloth and immediately wipe it off. Others have said that it removes the stain if left to long and it does indeed do that. But I have found it unsurpassed in quickly removing grime and grease if rubbed on and rubbed off quickly. I worked on the rim as well with a soft bristle tooth brush and the oil soap to remove the buildup. Once that was done I put it in the alcohol bath and removed the finish that was on it. It seemed to have had some built up waxes and also some kind of varnish coat over the stain. It came off with a bit of elbow grease after soaking. I decided to not stain this pipe as the briar looked great as it was. I just sanded it with the micromesh pads to polish it and remove the surface scratches. Then I took it to the buffer to give it a buff with White Diamond.

I worked on the stem while the bowl soaked in the bath. I soaked it in the Oxyclean mixture for a while to soften the oxidation. I dried it and buffed it with Tripoli to remove the surface oxidation. I sanded it with 240 grit sandpaper to get the deeper oxidation. I also had to lift a few tooth marks from the underside of the stem near the button. I used the heat gun to do that. The bubble on the top of the stem also was heated to try to smooth it out. It was evidently not a blister but a bump from teeth. It went back in place with the heat. I sanded the remaining signs of bite with 240 grit sandpaper and then 400 and 600 grit wet dry and water. I finished it with the normal regimen of 1500-6000 grit micromesh pads to polish. I put it back on the bowl and then gave the entirety a buff with White Diamond to polish it and finished the restoration with several coats of carnauba wax.

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Restored a Comoy’s Tradition from the 50’s


I have been looking for a Comoy’s pipe in the higher grades since I read a thread on Smokers Forums on the various grades of Comoy’s. On my anniversary trip to the States I came across a nice Tradition at an antique store. With a little bit of haggling the pipe and three others became mine (in the picture below the top pipe is an older Edwards that I picked up the next day at a different shop).

Please forgive the blurry pictures in the next foursome, I was too hurried to get at the clean up and restoration and did not focus them well. They are clear enough to see that the finish was in pretty good shape. The bowl was thickly caked and the rim was gummed up and looked to be dented. The stem was clean but oxidized and had tooth marks on the top of the stem near the button and on the underside in a matching pattern. I did a bit of field dressing to the pipe last evening while we were at the hotel, cleaned the stem and the inside of the shank with Isopropyl alcohol and also sanded the stem with a piece of 240 grit sand paper and some micromesh pads I had in my bag. (I know – it was my anniversary but I had thrown my book bag in from work and when I opened it I found the sanding disks. I have them in the bag when I have a break at work and want to get outside and have a pipe and work on one I have with me.) My wife was occupied with talking to the kids on the phone and looking through her purchases from the days shopping. So I had about an hour to do a bit of work!

I wiped down the top of the bowl with some Murphy’s Oil Soap (undiluted) on a cotton facial cleansing pad I picked up in the US. I had read about that on a post by Alan (Castana on SF) and they work very well. I applied the soap and removed it three times to soften and remove the grime. Once it was gone I found that the rim itself was pretty pristine. Just a little bit of wear on the chamfering on the right front. I reamed and cleaned the bowl and shank. I also used the micromesh pads (1500 and 1800 grit) on the rim and then restained the rim only with a dark brown aniline stain, wiped on and buffed off to match the bowl.

I worked on the stem next. It had bite marks on the top and bottom side near the button. I heated the stem and raised them as far as I could with heat then sanded out the remaining marks. To sand them I used 240 grit sandpaper first then used a fingernail sanding board that I picked up at Walmart this afternoon before coming home. It is pictured below in several of the pictures with the stem. It worked extremely well to remove the remaining tooth marks in the stem. I cleaned the oxidation with micromesh pads (1500-6000 grit) and put it back on the pipe to give it a buff with some Tripoli before returning to finish the polishing with the micromesh pads. I gave the stem a coat of Obsidian Oil and let it soak in before taking the whole pipe to the buffer to buff it lightly with White Diamond and several coats of carnauba wax.

Here is the finished pipe. I have been researching the stamping on this one. I found out that the stamping dates it to the early 1950’s. It is stamped in a circle with “Made” at the top, “In” in the middle and “London” at the bottom with “England in a straight line beneath. From the Derek Green’s History of Comoy’s Article I quote: “I believe this stamp was first used in the export drive in the early 1950’s and I have not seen any pre WW11 Comoy’s stamped in this way”.
http://www.derek-green.com/comoy_history03.htm

Dr. Plumb Bulldog Restoration


My daughter’s boyfriend found this neat little Dr. Plumb bulldog at a New Orleans shop and sent it to me for restoration. I thought Dr. Plumb had a connection to GBD and I believe they are now owned by the Cadogan group. The stem was in terrific shape, save for a heavy coat of oxidation. The top of the bowl was scorched and it had some dents and scratches.

Before:

I reamed the bowl with both my Castleford and Senor reamers. Someone in the pipes past had reamed it a little out of round, but it wasn’t too bad. I removed some of the dents with a knife heated by a flame and a wet towel. Most of the major ones popped back out nicely. The bowl has some fills, but they are hidden well by the factory finish. In order to remove the scorched top, it would have required a restain. I was afraid with the numerous fills, it would look better with the factory finish. “Character” as they say. I buffed the bowl with some Tripoli, White diamond and with a final buff using Carnuba. The stamping is very legible.

The stem was soaked in an Oxyclean solution overnight to soften the brown coating. Unfortunately, the stem logo proved very problematic. I could not get the oxidation off this part of the stem without removing the logo. The owner opted for me to leave the logo and brown patch.

Here is the finished product.

The pipe sure looks like it would be a good smoking piece and I hope the young man enjoys it for many years.

Selected Straight Grain (Comoys) Restoration


Several months ago, a thread on the SmokersForum.uk about the Comoys “Selected Straight Grain” pipes piqued my interest. Member Dirigo (Tom) was kind enough to share with me how to identify these interesting pipes. I was able to grab this Shape 13 via Ebay last week, which corresponds with the Comoys shape chart. That shape looked to be in decent shape, with the exception of one putty fill. I assume this flaw made the pipe unworthy of the Comoys stamping. There were only the slightest tooth marks and no pesky stem logo to worry about.

From the Ebay picture, you can see the ugly fill.

There was only minimal cake inside the bowl so it was lightly reamed and soaked with Everclear and sea salt. The top of the bowl was scarred, so that was going to take some work.

While the bowl was soaking, I started on the stem, which had been soaking in a Oxyclean solution. I went thru my usual 1500/2000 grit wet paper that onto the final four micromesh grades. The stem was then buffed with white diamond and a final plastic polish. Removing the light chatter was pretty straight forward. The button was worn, so I used a needle file to slightly reform the edges.  Unfortunately, I was unable to remove the oxidation without making the edge of stem slightly rounded.  I need to learn how to avoid this issue.

Once the bowl was done soaking it was moved to an alcohol bath to remove the stain. I spoke to Steve prior to this step and he recommended the fill be corrected using the superglue & briar technique he recently posted on Reborn Pipes. That solution worked well and I used two steps to fill in the pit. After restaining, the fill is just slightly visible, a big improvement from the factories solution using the bubble-gum putty.
The Super-Glue and briar dust patch.

I used a two-step stain process to highlight the grain, also a recommendation from Steve. First I “painted” on some black stain, after the bowl was warmed to open the grain. Then, the bowl was sanded with micromesh and a very diluted application of Medium Brown stain was applied. The bowl was than buffed with Tripoli and white diamond, followed by a final buff with Carnuba wax. I was careful on all steps not to diminish the stamping, which is quite legible.

Thanks to Steven Laug for his help with this one and Tom for information on this interesting Comoys niche.

Restemmed Red Point Capped Bent


I picked up this Red Point Old Briar Capped Pipe bowl on Ebay awhile ago. It did not have a stem but seemed to have promising grain. When it came in the mail I cleaned it up a bit and then worked on a stem for it. I decided to use a faux p-lip stem that has the airhole on the end of the stem rather than on the top. I fit the tenon to the shank – that was a bit of a trick as the shank is like a Pete shank in that it narrows/tapers as it descends toward the bowl. I finished fitting and polishing the stem.

Here are some pictures of the bowl when it came. From the second photo you can see that it was barely smoked. It was very clean and needed a few pipe cleaners run through it. The exterior needed to be wiped down with a little oil soap to clean away the grime – I always rub it on undiluted (no water) and quickly wipe it off. I do not leave it to sit. I also polished the silver work on the shank and the cap.

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I heated the stem with my heat gun and bent it slightly and took the next three pictures. I have learned that pictures give the true story in terms of bend and overall look of the pipe in a way that is clearer than the naked eye. From the photos I decided that the bend need to be a bit more dramatic and match the curve of the bottom of the bowl and shank. I reheated it and used the rounded edge of my work table to get a proper bend in it.

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Here is the final product – a proper bend with a curve that matches the bottom of the bowl and shank. The look is like an elongated S. Once it was finished I cooled the stem for a bit and then loaded it with Blue Mountain and smoked the inaugural bowl. Since then I have smoked it several times. It delivers a great smoke.

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Keyser Hygienic Patent Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

Over the past year I have been picking up these Keyser Hygienic pipes on EBay. This one makes the third one I have picked up at a reasonable price. They are made in England and sold exclusively in South Africa. The word is that they were designed to be virtually indestructible for farmer pipe smokers in SA. All versions of the pipe have the same stem – one size fits all. They seem to be made of nylon and rubber or some combination. They are tough and take tooth wear very well. Two of the three I picked up are older and both had the original stems on them. They had tooth chatter and minor dents. Steaming would not raise the dents at all. I had to deal with them with sandpaper and micromesh sanding pads.

The photo below came from the web and pictures a cutaway picture of the pipe and the unique condensing chamber that makes up the patented portion of the pipe. The shank has an aluminum condensing chamber with a tube in the centre that lines up with the tube inside the stem. It is pointing downward so air swirls around in the chamber formed by the military bit stem and the shank. Moisture is trapped and the smoke is cool and dry without loss of flavour.

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The pipe I am working on this time is a pot shaped sand blasted pipe. The aluminum was oxidized and dull the blast was dirty and the crevices filled with dirt and grime. The stem was in pretty clean shape other than the tooth chatter near the button. The rim of the bowl was tarred and caked. The cake was uneven and tapering in the bowl – almost as if the bowl was only half filled and smoked that way the majority of the time. The upper portion of the bowl had a very thin layer of cake and the lower portion a thick uneven cake. The condenser in both the stem and the shank were filled with a dark brown tar and the airway was constricted in the shank and clogged in the stem. The photo below shows the condition of the bowl and the stem and highlight where the work would be needed to clean up the exterior of this pipe.

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I reamed the bowl back to bare briar and scrubbed the blast surface with a brass tire brush to clean out the crevices. I also used a soft bristle tooth brush to finish cleaning the surface off. Once that was done I put the bowl in the alcohol bath to soak while I worked on the stem. The next two photos below show the stem after I used 240 grit sandpaper to remove the tooth marks and slight dents. I then used micromesh pads from 1500-6000 grit to polish the stem and work out the scratches. I have learned the hard way that you cannot buff these stems on the buffer as a little bit of surface heat from the buffing pads melts and distorts the surface. So these stems are totally buffed and polished by hand.

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The next two photos show the stem after it has been sanded up to the 3200 grit micromesh pad. The stem is beginning to get a shine and the scratches are disappearing with the sanding. From this point I went on the sand the stem through the remaining micromesh grits and when finished I gave it a coating of Obsidian Oil to penetrate the surface and give it a deep polish. Once that dried I buffed it by hand with some carnauba wax in paste form that I purchased from Walker Briar Works.ImageImage

From the next series of photos you can see that I interrupted my work on the stem to remove the bowl from the alcohol bath. I did that because I was curious to see how it was cleaning up. You will notice in these photos the brownish grey sludge in the grooves of the blast. I used the tooth brush once again to scrub the surface with Isopropyl from the alcohol bath. Once the grime was removed I washed the bowl down with clean Isopropyl and dried it off.

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The next series of photos show the dried bowl. The grime is gone and the finish is now down to the stain. Even some of the top coat of stain has been removed and you can see the briar. I laid the bowl aside and finished up the stem as I described it above.

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The aluminum condensing chamber on the shank and the chamber in the stem needed much work. I used cotton swabs that I flattened to clean the area inside the shank around the airway extension and the same in the stem. Once that was clean I polished the oxidized aluminum with the micromesh pads to burnish the aluminum and get the shine back.

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I then restained the bowl with a dark brown stain, knowing that when I buffed it the reddish brown undercoat would shine through on the high spots and the dark would fill the crevices and give the pipe a contrast stain. The next series of three photos show the staining and the way the various grains took the stain. The right side of the bowl has a great ring blast that is fairly deep and craggy. The left side is more of a blast on birdseye. It is an interesting looking blast. The bowl rim came out clean as well and shows an interesting contrast in the light of the flash.

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The final series of four photos show the finished pipe. The entirety has been given a coat of wax. I used Halcyon II on the blast to polish it without leaving the white residue in the grain of the blast when it dried. I buffed it by hand. The stem received another hand applied coat of carnauba wax and a buff by hand. The pipe pictured is clean and ready to smoke.

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I have included pictures below of the other two Keyser pipes that I picked up and refurbished. The top one is an apple with really nice grain. I have been smoking this one and enjoying the dry and cool smoke that it gives. The second is a smaller prince shape that is no longer available. It had some burns on the rim that are still visible but it too smokes very well. One day will rework the rim a bit and minimize the burn marks. Till then I will smoke these Keyser’s and keep an eye for more of them.

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Cutting a new stem from rod stock – a photo essay


Blog by Steve Laug

This one has been sitting on my desk for a long time in need of a stem. I have restemmed it with at least two different moulded stems that I have fit the tenon on and carved the surface down to make a slab like stem but none of them worked for a variety of reasons. One of them I sanded right through the top of the stem as I flattened it. The second just was not wide enough in the flare that makes a Barling stem what it is. I scrounged on EBay for old stems or ruined Barlings so that I could scavenge a stem. I found several but when they arrived they were oval stems or stems with a smaller diameter at the shank. So I was stuck and the pipe sat for probably four more months.

One evening I was chatting on Skype with Dan Chlebove from Gabrieli Pipes about it and asked him if he would be willing to cut a piece of vulcanite rod stock for me to work on. He agreed and quickly did that for me and sent it up to the Great White North! It arrived and I fit the tenon to the mortise with very little effort. After that I again set the pipe aside while I worked on the fortitude to go to work on the stem. The piece of rod stock looked daunting to me and I had never hand cut a stem before. This was going to be my first hand cut a stem and a Barling slab stem to boot. I was not sure whether I would be able to pull it off. So it sat! Probably another month went by with it sitting on my desk next to the computer just quietly, silently taunting me to take the plunge.

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The long and short of it is that five months to the day from when I received the pipe stummel in the mail, I finally went to work on the stem. I set up my Dremel with the large sanding drum and got out my wood rasps and files and went to work on the stem. I did the initial shaping and cutting away of material with the Dremel and the sanding drum. I decided to start by cutting back volume on what would be the slab part of the bit. Notice in the pictures below I left a bar at the tip for where the button would be when I finished the stem. I did not work on the diameter of the saddle or the curves of the Barlings saddle at this point. I was only interested in removing material to begin to get the rod shaped into the stem and remove as much material as possible with the Dremel. The three photos below show the first steps in the process and the result of sanding with the Dremel. I have shown the stem on the pipe from the top and bottom view to give an idea of what I was aiming for and in profile in the third photo to show how much material had been removed at this point in the process.

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There was still a long way to go to get the stem to even close to the final shape. I used the Dremel and sanding drum to remove more material and begin to take the saddle down to size to fit the diameter of the shank. At this point the saddle is slightly conical as I was working particularly on the junction of the stem and shank. I also sanded away more of the slab material and used the drum to shape in the portion of the rod that would end up being the button on the finished pipe. The next three photos show the results of the next process of sanding with the Dremel. The shape is beginning to emerge from the rod stock.ImageImageImage

The next two photos show the file and rasp that I used in the next part of the work of shaping. I would come back to the Dremel to remove more material but I wanted to flatten the slab and not have any waves in it that the round sanding drum left behind (visible in the photos above, I was careful so they were not too bad, but they were there). I sent up the pipe on the work bench and use the rasp to cut away material. I held it horizontal to the slab and worked the length back and forth until it was straight and smooth. I used a file to take out many of the deep cuts of the rasp and to work on the edge of the button on the end of the rod stock. The first photo shows where the stem is beginning to more clearly emerge. There is still a lot of work to do at this point but it is beginning to tentatively take shape. All through the process from this point on I kept a picture of a Barling’s Make Billiard close at hand to compare as I removed more and more material. It has been wisely said that you should progress slowly because you can always remove more material but you cannot put it back. The saddle of the stem is still conical because I still needed to work the taper and slight flare of the slab bit. The flat slab is very proportional in the second profile picture. It is flat at this point but still far too thick for the finished stem. The button is better defined and the stem is very clearly outlined in both pictures.

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At this point I took the pipe back to the Dremel to remove some the saddle and some of the thickness of the slab. The picture below shows what the pipe looked like when I brought it back to the work bench to use the files again. You will note that I worked with the stem on the pipe. I do this because I want to keep things in proportion and find that when I work with it off of the stem it is easy to lose the roundness of the saddle portion and a feel for the look of the pipe in profile. I use the pipe bowl as a guide to keep me focused in what I remove of the vulcanite. Each step the stem is emerging more and more from the rod stock.

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In the next three photos I used some 80 grit sand paper to remove more material from the saddle. At this point I still left a bit of the conical shape. I was working on the profile to bring the saddle into line with the horizontal lines of the shank. You can see that there is still a lot of material to remove before it is in line. I also began to work on the taper back to the button. I would have to remove some more of the thickness of the slab but I wanted to narrow the flow back to the button.ImageImageImage

The next two photos show the pipe from the top and the bottom next to a smaller Barling’s Make billiard that I was using as an example along with the photos I had collected. I was ready to start working on the taper of the slab on each side. Note the way the little billiard stems line go from the shank to the button in the photos. I wanted to make the lines on the slab I was working on to go the same angles. You can see what I am speaking of most clearly in the second photo of the top of both stems. I was aiming for the shape and angle of the sides of the original to match the stem I was shaping. At this point the stem is really taking shape and I can see it more clearly as I work on it. There is still much material to remove from the thickness of the slab but care must be exercised as I needed to open up the airway with a larger drill bit before going much further. I did not want the stem to be so thin that I would drill right through the top or bottom.

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The next four photos show the pipe stem after I have drilled the airway and opened it up. I then removed more of the material from the slab and the saddle with the sanding drum and then sandpaper. The stem was getting closer to the shape I was aiming for. I also sanded the taper from the saddle back to the button with the files and the sandpaper. I wanted a gradual move and flow back while keeping the profile flat. The upper portion of the stem next to the saddle was close to flatness I wanted but the nearer the button the stem was crowned and needed to be sanded flat once again. I shaped the button and removed material from the thickness of it to approximate the finished profile. I also slanted the lip of the button away from the stem. In the last two photos of the foursome I show the top and bottom views of the stem at this point. I had the angles from the saddle to the button along the sides with the right flare. The overall look of the stem was very close to the original, just a bit thick and crowned rather than flat at the button end. More sanding needed to be done!

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In the next four photos the crown on the stem has been removed, the diameter of the saddle and the shank are very close and the fit is excellent. The button has been shaped a bit more but there it still a lot of material on it. The slab of the stem is still thicker than I would like but it is getting closer to the finished stem. The shape is very clear now and the round piece of rod stock has all but disappeared. You will notice at this point that the saddle and slab are at right angles and there is not the curve of the original Barling’s Make stem where the saddle merges with the slab. That remains to be done. The angles of the slab from shank to button are finally getting there. Lots of sanding has been done and more to come to get this just so.

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I used the Dremel sanding drum to carve the angles of the saddle to slab transition. I needed to go from the ninety degree angle in the above photos to more of a curved flowing transition. I drew the curve I was aiming at with a carpenters pencil on the saddle portion of the stem so that I could see how much material to cut away with the sanding drum. The next three photos show the stem after the sanding drum had done its work. It is hard to see in the profile shots but I pushed the drum a little too deeply into the slab portion and caused the flatness to have a slight dip on the top and the bottom of the slab. It would take much sanding to bring that back to level with both files and sandpaper. I used a file to work on the surface first to smooth out the surface and level it and then 80 grit sand paper to begin to smooth out the slab and bring it back to level.

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The next two photos show the progress of removing the dips. The first shows the profile and if you look closely you can see the dip in the top and bottom is lessening though it is still present. The sanding disk in the picture is a soft sponge with 100 grit sandpaper attached and it is perfect for working the curve of the angles on the saddle. I also worked on the angles from shank to button some more with the sandpaper and also the button to give it more definition.

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The next series of photos show the work that was done to remove more of the material in the saddle and smooth out the shank/stem junction. There was still material that need to be removed from the underside of the saddle at this point as can be seen in the two profile pictures. The top is pretty close but both need more sanding to make the surface horizontal from the bowl to the saddle transition to the slab. I also worked on the width of the slab horizontally. I would also need to flatten the sides of the slab rather than curve them as they are in these photos. The curve of the saddle to the slab it looking very good at this point and is a match to the original stem in terms of angle and position. I sanded the button some more as well to thin it down and to taper it backward toward the slot.

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The next series of photos show the stem after I have removed much of the thickness around the shank junction. The top is just about perfect in terms of it horizontal look. The bottom needs to have a bit removed near the slope to the slab. The side profile shots show that the taper in terms of width is getting very close. I also flattened the edges of the stem profile from shank to button to give it a more Barling’s shape. The button is getting a cleaner look as I shape it with the sandpaper and the slab is just about the correct thinness and flatness. The last two photos of the top and bottom of the stem show that the angles of the stem flow nicely from the bowl to the buttonImageImageImageImage

The last four photos show the pipe with the shaping finished. The stem fits the shank well and the diameter of the shank and saddle match. The curved edge of the saddle is matching and when overlaid on a picture of the original stem it also matches. The taper of the bit from saddle to button is smooth and flowing. The width of the bit tapering from the bowl back to the button is equal and smooth. The button has been shaped and the width and angles on it are matching the original stem. I have opened the slot on the end of the stem but still need to shape the slot to be more like the Barling slot. There are also scratches that need to be removed from the surface of the stem to get the rich polish on the vulcanite. Those are minor things that need to be completed before the stem is completely finished but it has gone from a vulcanite rod to a Barling’s stem shape.

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I enjoyed the process of stem shaping from start to finish. Though this took probably about 5 hours or more, and I am sure there are faster ways to do the work, I learned far more than the time spent can spell out. I would not change anything about the learning as I do my best in hands on experiences. The process of shaping a piece of rod stock into a stem has been demystified for me and I have gained a new appreciation for the work of pipe makers and repairmen who hand cut stems. There is no way a craftsman can be compensated adequately for the painstaking detail that goes into shaping and crafting a hand cut stem. My hat is off to those who take the time to do that on the pipes they make. Thank you.

UPDATE: I just finished shaping the button and the slot on the new stem. I used needle files and folded sandpaper to smooth out the slot. I funneled it back quite a ways. The pictures below show the shape of the button and the slot as it stands now.

Here are a couple of photos of the shape of the button in profile and from above.