Daily Archives: August 12, 2012

Carved from a kit – a predrilled block and stem

I took this photo essay of a pipe I carved from a pipe kit I purchased from smokindawg (Steve) on Smokers Forums and Pipe Smokers Unleashed. It was a predrilled block of briar and a straight vulcanite stem fit with a Delrin tenon. I actually only had to shape and finish this one. Steve did the hard work in drilling and prestemming it for me. Here is a photo journal of the progress in making the pipe. I used a hand held Dremel with the larger sanding drum to bring the pipe out of the block. At the junction of the bowl and shank I used a wood rasp and a long file to get the angle cut the way I wanted it to be.

Photos 1-3 the block when it arrived (I sketched a potential shape with pencil on both side of the block to give me an idea of where I was going to go)ImageImageImage

Photos 4-5 show the initial sanding to remove material.ImageImage

Photos 6-9 Making more briar dustImageImageImageImage

Photos 10-13 – Making more dust – Shape emergingImageImageImageImage

Photos 14-17 Making more dust – shape is coming. I bent the stem with heat to get an idea of the curve of the stem. Also removed some of the vulcanite on the stem.ImageImageImageImage

Photos 18-23 – The shaping is done. The pipe has been sanded with 240 grit sand paper and then buffed with Tripoli and White Diamond. I then sanded it with 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper.ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Photos 24-27 – Black Stain. After some more sanding I stained the entire bowl with black aniline stain as an undercoat.


Photos 28-31 – Excess black stain removed. With the buffer and Tripoli I removed the excess of the black undercoat of stain. My goal was to leave it in the grain patterns to highlight them.


Photos 32-36 – More buffing and sanding. ImageImageImageImageImage

Photos 37-40 – Top stain of Oxblood Aniline for contrast. ImageImageImageImage

Photo 41 – An adjustment to the bend. I reheated the stem and curved the bend a bit more to match the curve of the underside of the bowl.


London Made Reject – Hand Made

Blog by Steve Laug

This is one big pipe. I got it in a group of pipes I bought on EBay. The others in the lot were Barlings and Bewlays. They were normal group 3 and 4 sized pipes. This one is just over 7 inches long and 2 inches tall. The outer diameter of the bowl is 1 ¾ inches and the inner diameter of the bowl is 1 inch. It presented some interesting issues that would need to be addressed in the refurbishing process. The biggest of those was a significant cigarette burn on the outer edge and the top of the rim. It was quite deep and was an actually divot in the surface of the bowl. The rim – inner edge toward the stem also was charred and tarred. The finish was actually worn and had lost most of the stain. There were some very obvious pink putty fills on the right side of the bowl near the bottom and on the top of the shank near the stem. The stem was oxidized and there was a bit of tooth chatter.


I have taken a picture of the pipe with a group 4 sized billiard to give an idea of the massive size of this old beauty. It is stamped on the left side of the shank “Made By Hand” and on the right side of the shank ‘Reject” over “London Made”.  I am pretty sure that it is a Charatan reject though I cannot be certain. What do you all think? Who is the maker? The only thing making this a reject are the few fills as it has some pretty decent grain all the way around.


After I reamed and cleaned the pipe inside with isopropyl alcohol I decided to address the cigarette burn on the top and side of the rim. The only way to remove it was to top the pipe. The next series of four photos show the emery cloth attached to a cutting board so that I could work on the topping procedure. The first photo shows the angle of attack that I use on the bowl. I place it flat on the cloth and work it in circles on the paper. I keep the bowl rim flat on the paper to ensure that the surface does not become angled or slanted. The next three photos show the top after sanding. Each photo is sequential so that you can see the progress in removing the divot. The second photo below shows the side shot of the damage and you can see the depth of the burn. The next two show the gradual removal of the burn and the flattening out of the surface of the rim.


When I finished with the emery cloth I used 240 grit sandpaper to smooth out the surface and remove scratches left by the emery cloth. I used the same circular motion to sand the rim. I find that the circular motion leaves fewer scratches and also keeps the bowl flat as I work on it. The next series of three photos show the rim and side after sanding with the 240 grit sandpaper. The burn mark is now flattened out and the edge of the rim is smooth. The divot is gone. The decision I had to make at this point was whether to continue sanding to remove all of the darkening on the bowl rim or to use stains to hide it a bit and keep the profile at its current height. I opted to use the stains on the burn mark and leave it at this point. Once I had the bowl rim at this point I proceeded to use 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper and then micromesh from 1500-6000 grit to smooth out the surface of the rim.


From there I decided to work on the fills. The pink putty just does not work for me. It does not take stain and it is always glaringly present in the finished pipe. The next two photos show the fills on the right side toward the bottom of the bowl and on the shank near the stem.


I wiped the bowl down with acetone (fingernail polish remover) to get the stain and finish removed. Then I used the dental pick to remove the fills. The next five photos show the opening up of the pits that were under the fills. I use the sharp point of the dental pick to pick away all of the putty and leave the holes open and free of debris. I also wipe the bowl down with acetone before filling them with the new patch.ImageImageImageImageImage

After wiping down the surface of the pipe and cleaning out any remaining debris in the pits or holes I filled the holes with briar dust that I had saved from sanding the rim. I packed the dust into the hole with the dental pick. I find that if I wet the end of the pick the briar dust clumps on the pick. I scrape it over the holes and then tamp them full with the briar dust. I purposely over fill them with the dust. Then I drip super glue onto the briar dust patch. In the three photos below you can see the patches after the initial sanding with a fine grit pink sanding pad. They are the dark spots on the right side of the photo and on the shank near the stem. These dark spots lessen with more sanding. The second photo also shows the state of the rim from the top shot.ImageImageImage

I heated the bowl so that I could do the contrast staining to highlight the grain. I used an artist’s brush to apply black aniline stain to the bowl. I follow the lines of the grain. I painted the bowl, shank and rim with the black stain. Then I lit it with a lighter to flame the stain and set it. Once it was dry I sanded the stain to remove the excess.Image

The next series of four photos show the bowl after the initial sanding. I had removed much of the stain. The reason I am showing these photos is to highlight how the fill on the side of the bowl and on the shank have faded into the finish of the pipe. The black stain not only highlights the grain but also blends in the fills with the contrast stain on the bowl. In the second and third photo I also wanted to show how the stain takes care of the burn mark on the bowl side and rim. It is still present in terms of the darkening but it is less visible at this point. That is what I was aiming for. From this point I took the pipe to my buffer and used Tripoli and White Diamond to buff out a bit more of the black so that it would highlight the grain but not be the overwhelmingly dark coat under the finish stain that I would later use. I also used micromesh pads from 3200 to 6000 grit to work out any of the remaining scratches on the rim and bowl surfaces.ImageImageImageImage

At this point I set the bowl aside and went to work on the stem. In the picture below you can see the variety of micromesh pads that I use to remove the oxidation. The brown dust on the pads is the oxidation that comes off with the sanding. I always have a bowl of water at the side of the table to dip the pads in and wash off the oxidation dust and grime and also to give the pads more bite when I am sanding the stem. I went back and forth through the pads and the buffer with Tripoli and White Diamond to bring the stem back to the rich black that it had originally. I always buff the stem with it back on the pipe. I do not want to risk rounding the edge at the point where it sits against the shank. Once it was shiny black and acceptable I took the pipe back to the work table to give it the final stain coat.Image

For a top coat of stain I chose oxblood coloured aniline stain. I find that the contrast between it and the black undercoat work well together. The next series of four photos show the finished pipe. The first shows the left side and what remains of the burn mark near the top of the rim. It is still present but certainly less visible and it is smooth to touch. The second photo shows the right side of the pipe and how well the stain has hidden the reworked fills on the shank and near the bottom of the bowl. If you did not know they were present you would have a hard time seeing them. The third photo shows the rim and how well the stain has hidden the burn mark and brought out the birdseye grain on the rim. The final photo shows the bottom of the bowl and is included to show the contrast stain and the graining on that part of the bowl.ImageImageImageImage

The next series of photos show closer views of the repairs that were down and how they blend in with the contrast stain. The first is the left side of the bowl and you can see the darkening of the rim where the burn mark was. It is smooth to touch and none of the profile of the pipe is affected. The second photo shows the part of the bowl where I removed the putty fills, refilled them with briar dust and superglue and then restained with the two coats of contrasting stain. The third photo shows the same repairs on the shank. The final photo is of the rim of the bowl. The birdseye grain is highlighted. In the slight glare at the top of the photo you can see the remaining mark from the burn. The black and oxblood stains minimize the visibility of the burn darkening. I finished the pipe by giving the entirety several coats of carnauba wax to give it a rich glow. The pipe is finished and ready to give many years of service to whoever becomes the next owner.


Refurbishing another Mystery Pipe

I picked up this pipe in an EBay lot recently. The other pipes were older Barlings and Bewlays. I know that it belonged to the same gent originally because all the stems have matching tooth marks. This guy must have had jaws of steel. His bite marks showed a repeated pattern of biting down in an identical place on each pipe. The amazing thing on this one is that though the bites were deep they did not break through the surface of the stem.

The first series of pictures below show the pipe as it came to me in the lot. Rim had some tars and cake build up. The bowl was dirty but not caked. The exterior of the pipe was also dirty but not damaged. The mystery to me is the material that this bowl is made of. It is very light weight and a bit odd. There is some resemblance to Laxley meers from the Isle of Mann. They made meers for Peterson, Nording and Barling as well as some under their own brand. I have found that those I have worked on and now own are uniformly heavy and thick bowled. This one is not that way at all. This little guy – and I say little as in 1 1/2 inch tall and a bowl outer diameter of 1 1/8 inches and bore of 3/4 inches – is somehow incredibly light weight. Think in terms of a featherweight briar and you are close. The stem is heavier than the bowl… Those are the things that leave me mystified with this one. I wonder if it is not some sort of resin????

The copper coloured band on the shank is actually copper tape. It was covered with a coating of glue to give it some resilience I would guess. The shank extension is vulcanite as is the stem. The stem is badly bitten but no bite throughs. It will take a bit of work to take care of those and to remove the deep oxidation. The tenon is also a reverse tenon. It extends from the shank like a Carey Magic Inch tenon. The stem slides over the tenon.


Using my dental pick as a lever I pried away the tape on the shank. I wanted to see what was underneath to know if I was dealing with a separated shank extension or what. As can be seen in the next photo it appears that the tape was merely cosmetic. The shank extension and the joint of the two parts were liberally coated with glue. It appeared to have been wood glue and it was very hard. I was able to peel away bits and pieces of the glue by picking at it with the dental pick and my finger nail. Note also the reverse tenon on the shank that I spoke of above. It is anchored in the shank and is not removable. It seems to be an integral part of the shank extension.Image

The next two photos show the junction of the shank and the shank extension with the glue removed. I used some 180 grit sandpaper to work on it and then finished with 220 and 240 grit to remove the remaining bits. The junction appeared to be sound. There were no cracks and once the glue was removed the connection was tight and smooth.ImageImage

I continued sanding the shank and extension through 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper as well as the usual micromesh pads from 1500-6000 grit. The three photos below show the finished shank. You will note that the band between the bowl and the extension is also sanded clean. The glue was so built up on it that it needed to be sanded to clean away the build up.ImageImageImage

Once the bowl had reached that point I cleaned the rim with a brass tire brush to remove the tars and buildup that was in the rustication on the rim. I wiped it down with a soft alcohol dampened cloth to remove the dust and remnants after brushing. I decided to restain the rim and the band on the shank. While I was at it I also freshened the stain on the bowl. The odd thing to me was that the stain was not absorbed when I put it on the bowl. It literally sat on the surface until it was dry. To get the coverage to do any good at all involved repeated applications of stain to the band and the rim edges. If the pipe had been briar or meer the stain would have quickly absorbed into the heated surface. This is yet another piece of the mystery of this pipe. What is this material that does not accept the stain?ImageImageImage

Once the stain was dry I did not buff the pipe at all with my buffer but wiped it down with a soft cotton cloth and hand buffed it with a soft bristle shoe brush. In the pictures below you can see the finished bowl. The band and the highlights in the bowl are almost a reddish brown. It is an attractive pipe when all is said and done. You can see the inside of the bowl after I sanded it down to clean it. It appears to be a brownish colour and feels like briar to the touch and yet there is something different in the feel of it.ImageImage

From the earlier pictures above you can see the state of the stem with the bite marks on the top and bottom near the button. I used my heat gun to raise them as much as possible before sanding the stem to remove the remaining marks. The first two photos below show the stem after heating and sanding with the 240 grit sand paper. The top photo is the top side of the stem. There were four remaining marks as can be seen – three on the surface of the stem and two along side of the button edge. There was also damage to the button surface that is visible. The second photo shows the bottom side of the stem – it was a bit better after the heating than the top side. It still had two bite marks and the button was dented.ImageImage

I sanded the marks to smooth them out and then cleaned the surface of the stem with an alcohol wipe to remove the dust. The first photo below shows the spots of super glue on the surface filling the dents in the stem surface. I do not use much glue, just a spot. When it hardens it is not easily sanded so the less I use on the surface the better in my opinion. I also did a bit of work rebuilding the button edge and surface with the glue. When I am using the glue I work on one side at a time in order to have the glue set without running and making a mess of things.Image

The next two photos show the repairs to the top (first photo) and the bottom (second photo) of the stem after the initial sanding. I used an emery board that I picked up at a local department store to sand the surface at this point. It is sold in the area where they sell beauty supplies and is used for fingernails. I learned the usefulness of these by “borrowing” one from my daughters and really like the usefulness. Both photos show the patches disappearing into the surface of the stem.ImageImage

The next two photos show the patches on both the top (first photo) and the bottom (second photo) of the stem after sanding with 220 and 240 grit sandpaper. The patches are getting to the point where they are invisible. I continued sanding both sides of the stem until I was ready to work on the sheen and polish.ImageImage

From this point I sanded the stem with 400 and 600 grit wet dry sandpaper until the patches disappeared into the smooth surface of the stem. I then progressed through the usual regimen of micromesh pads from 1500-6000 grit to polish the surface. Several times in the process I took the stem to the buffer to polish it with Tripoli and White Diamond to see where I needed to do more work on the scratches. I resanded the stem until the scratches were gone – each time using the buffer in between to see the progress. Once it was completed I put it on the pipe and used White Diamond to polish the shank and stem. I coated the stem and shank extension with Obsidian Oil and rubbed it in once it had soaked in. I then gave the entirety several coats of carnauba wax. I did not wax the bowl or use the buffer on it as I wanted to maintain the appearance and cragginess of the finish. In the four photos below you can see the finished pipe. The patches are virtually invisible unless you know where to look. The surface is shiny and black. There is still a bit of oxidation that I need to remove on the stem at the shank extension but overall it is like a new pipe.ImageImageImageImage

The mystery remains, what is it made of? Is it meer? Is it clay? Don’t know. I plan on smoking it later today so maybe the way it handles the heat of the burning tobacco may add some information to the mix.