Blog by Steve Laug
On one of the forums another member and I were chatting bemoaning the red putty fills that so often are a part of old time pipes. I have no idea why they choose to use the red putty but as the pipe ages and the stain mellows with age the putty sticks out in all of its awfulness! I really do not like the look of red putty fills. They have a look like pink/reddish bubble gum. On smaller ones I used to pick them out and refill them with briar dust and wood glue. I always over filled them a bit as the glue shrunk as it dried and I found that the wood glue did not take the colour of the stain well. I left that discussion behind and went to work the next day with other things on my mind. I came home that evening and a PM was waiting for me. Another member remembered that an old pipe repairman friend of his used to use superglue and briar dust to repair fills. He asserted that once the glue was dry it was invisible and the stains would cover it as well.
I had this old bulldog in my pipes to be repaired box. There were two large fills on it that had more or less fallen out over time. What remained were two rather large holes or divots in the right side of this old pipe. The top arrow points to the one on the shank about mid way between the bowl and the band. The lower arrow points to the on the lower portion of the bowl.
I used a dental pick to clean out the remaining red putty from the pits. I wanted the holes to be clean of any remnant of the putty. I also used cotton swabs and Isopropyl alcohol to wash out the areas where there was any putty left. Between the pick and the swabs the holes were cleaned out and open as they appear in the picture above.
I then took a tin of briar dust I have saved from pipes I have worked on over the past months. I keep some on hand for patches like these. I wet the end of the dental pick and dipped it into the briar dust and move it around to form a ball of the dust on the end of the pick. I used my finger to move the dust ball into the hole on the shank and the bowl. I patted the dust into the hole with the tip of a knife blade as I wanted a good tight fill. I then squeezed a few drops of super glue into the dust in the hole. As I did this the dust would shrink a bit and I added more dust and more super glue. When I was done the holes were filled and both had a small bump over where they used to be. I always over fill the holes so that when I sand them down they are smooth and I can feather in the fills with the rest of the briar. I was fortunate in this case that the holes were lined up with the grain marking around them. Once the glue dried (very quickly by the way) I sanded and checked to see if I had missed any spots. I wanted the entire surface smooth to the touch and under a jewelers loop. I sanded the spots down and blended them into the bowl surface. Once that was done I wiped the bowl down with a cotton cloth dampened with Isopropyl alcohol to remove any remaining dust.
I then set up my stain area and stained the pipe with an oxblood aniline stain. In this case I did not let it dry but wiped it on and wiped it off. I wanted to make sure that I was getting good coverage on the fills. I repeated the staining until the colour was what I was aiming for. The picture below is of the same pipe after staining and buffing with White Diamond. It was finished with several coats of carnauba wax. Can you see the fills that were evident above? I assure you that in person it is just as hard to see them.