Daily Archives: August 22, 2012

A New Stem for a La Strada Moderna Volcano

Blog by Steve Laug

I restemmed a couple of pipes for a fellow Canadian who needed one done for himself and one for his father in law. In thanks he gave me a couple of pipes. This La Strada Moderna Volcano was one of them. It was in need of a stem as well and also needed a good cleaning and restaining. The mortise in the tenon was actually very thin at the top of the shank and had some very small cracks that seemed to have come from just removing and reinserting the stem. I repaired the cracks by opening them a bit with pressure on a dental pick and dripped some superglue into the cracks and held them closed until the glue set. I then banded the shank with an oval nickel band that I pressure fit.

I had an oval stem blank in my can of stems that would fit with a bit of work. I fit the tenon with my tenon cutter and sandpaper. Then I used the Dremel to shape the stem to a fit. Using the larger sanding drum on the Dremel I can get very close to a good fit and with a light touch can leave the surface with minimum scratching. I then finish the fit with sandpaper. In this case I used some medium grit emery cloth to bring it very close and then 240 grit sandpaper to finish the fit. Once that was done I used 400 and 600 wet dry sand paper to finish removing the scratches and then took it to the buffer and buffed it with Tripoli so that I could see the scratches I needed to work on some more with sandpaper before turning to the micromesh sanding pads. I used 1500-6000 grit pads to finish sanding the stem. I then finished with White Diamond on the buffer and gave the stem several coats of carnauba wax. I restained the bowl with oxblood aniline stain and then buffed the bowl lightly with White Diamond and coated it with Halcyon II wax to give it a sheen.


Resurrecting a Petersen Pre-Republic Billiard – Gan Barber

Blog by Gan Barber

It is a privilege to be able to post this blog entry from a friend and co-laborer in the refurbishing hobby. I have learned much from Gan, including the use of the alcohol bath for soaking bowls and preparing them. In fact as I read this report I am amazed at all the things we do similarly. I appreciate his taking the time to write this up to share here at rebornpipes. I look forward to more articles from Gan, as I am sure you will also after reading this one. Thanks Gan!

Well, the work is done, so it’s time to sit back, light up a bowl of Perreti 9575, and record this adventure….

I am not an expert on dating Petersen Pipes, but from the little I know, this one appears to be a Pre-Republic era vintage. There are no markings on the briar or stem. The hallmark on the band indicates nickel, not silver, and provides no dating information. The K&P, Peterson, Dublin stamping is the only indication that the pipe dates from the Pre-Republic era.

It came to me in a sorry state of repair, and, after some preliminary cleaning, sat in my ‘Lazarus’ box for many years. The shank had been snapped from the bowl, the rim was dented, and the P-Lip modified. It was never going to be a collector piece. Still, it held some promise…… Image

Before I begin the cleaning phase of any project, I like to remove any excess cake. I’m not looking to do anything more than scrape away thick accumulations from the bowl in order to find possible charring or burn-out. In this case, the break was clean, and exhibited no signs of burning that may have contributed to the damage. There was a small dent on the upper left rim of the bowl, leading me to believe that the previous owner liked to tap out the dottle, and had done so once too often.

Satisfied that the bowl was structurally sound, I placed it into a 91% Isopropyl alcohol bath. Once I removed the band, the broken shank followed. Image

I have had favorable results using this method to strip and clean a stummel. Using the highest percentage Isopropyl alcohol I can find (91%), means that only 9% of the solution is water. The low percentage of water allows the briar to dry rapidly once removed from the bath with very little residual moisture. I have soaked stummels for days without ill effects, though the extended time provides little in the way of additional cleaning. It can help with reducing strong ghosts, though. The alcohol will soften even the most stubborn cake, and sweeten the bowl as well as any other method.

Once the bowl had soaked long enough so loosen the dirt and soften the cake, I removed it from the bath and immediately reamed the bowl, removing as much cake as possible without quite  getting down to bare briar. My tool of choice here is a Senior Adjustable Reamer. Not that it’s the only tool that will work; it just happens to be what I have and works quite well for this task.

With the reaming completed, the stummel went back into the bath for another wash. I prefer to do the preliminary cleaning wet, so the stummel will see the bath frequently. The advantages of working wet are two-fold: The alcohol lubricates the mechanical action of the steelwool, mitigating scratching, and the wetting reveals any missed areas requiring additional attention. I worked the wet stummel with 0000 steel wool until most of the dirt, grime and tar were gone.

While the bowl soaked in the alcohol bath, the vulcanite stem soaked in a solution of Oxy-Clean (1/4 scoop to 16 ounces of clean, warm water). Depending on the level of oxidation, I will let the stem soak anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight. Again, I’ve left stems soaking for days without detriment. Generally, I like to soak the stem for two to three hours. The oxidation will turn to a yellow-white slime, and the majority of it will come off quite easily with 0000 steel wool. There was no logo present, so I used the 0000 liberally to achieve a thorough cleaning. Another advantage of the Oxi-Clean soak is its ability to loosen any gunk that has accumulated in the smoke passage. Several bristle pipe cleaners are all that are needed to literally pull the residue from the passage. Another pass with a regular pipe cleaner and some alcohol will remove any traces of tar.

Below are the bowl, shank, and stem after soaking in their respective baths and an initial wet scrub with the 0000 steel wool. Later on in the refurb, I will continue to clean them, but by dipping the steel wool into the alcohol for the wood and the Oxi-clean for the stem, rather than re-immersing them. Image

Once I was satisfied with the initial cleaning, it was time to move on to the most challenging aspect of this project – mating the shank to the bowl.

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing the proper bonding agent to use in repairing a broken or cracked stummel. Heat, moisture, clamping time and compatibility with wood are paramount. Traditional outdoor rated aliphatic glues (Tite-Bond, Elmers, etc.) are resistant to moisture, but I don’t trust them to withstand moist heat. Polyurethane adhesives are stronger and more resistant to both heat and moisture, but have high expansion rates and excessive foaming. Both require extended clamping periods, which is extremely challenging due to the irregular shape of a stummel.

My adhesive of choice is a a fast set epoxy – JB Kwik. It is extremely strong (though not as strong as regular Weld Bond), heat resistant to 500+ degrees F, impervious to moisture, and has a clamping time of only 3 minutes. Mixed from two parts (epoxy/catalyst), it has a reasonable working time, and the two pieces of the pipe stummel can be held together with strong hand pressure for three minutes and then released.

To rejoin the shank to the bowl, I carefully aligned the two pieces so that I could easily find the correct registration before mixing a small amount of the epoxy. I applied it to both surfaces with a toothpick, then pressed the shank and bowl together, squeezing as much epoxy out of the joint as hand pressure would allow. I held them this way for three minutes. I did not worry about any squeeze-out getting into the air passage – yet.

After hand clamping for three minutes, I gently set the stummel down and let it rest for another 7 minutes. If properly mixed, Weld Bond Quick will be set to a rubbery stage after ten minutes (at 70 degrees F). At this point, I took a utility knife and carefully lifted the squeeze out off of the briar. It should peel like a rubber gasket if you catch it at the right time, leaving only a dark oily residue where it contacted the briar. Next, I took the drill bit from the Senior Reamer, and gently worked it through the airway. Care must be taken to use as little pressure as possible to twist and push out any epoxy the made its way into the passage. Although Weld Bond is non-toxic when cured, if cleaned out properly, little if any will be present in the airway.

I allowed the epoxy to cure for 6 hours, and then set to work gently sanding the joint with 400 grit emery to fare the seam as smooth as possible without altering the shape of the pipe. The only caveat to using this epoxy – it is rather viscous and will leave a faintly visible line at the joint no matter how well the parts are mated. I’ve found that after sanding, staining and buffing, this line will all but disappear.


The stummel after roughing in with the 400 grit emery. The graining did little to hide the seam on the left side…..


…while on the right, the grain pattern was more favorable and the seam blended in nicely.

With the shank and bowl rejoined and fared, I finished cleaning the briar with 0000 steel wool wetted with alcohol. Working wet with alcohol eases the scuffing of the steel wool and reveals the grain and any remaining flaws that may need attention. It also removes any oils or dirt introduced from handling the raw wood. The JB Kwik is impervious to the alcohol.

The next stage consisted of wet sanding with 600 grit. I used alcohol as a lubricant. When finished with the 600, I took the bowl to the buffer for a gentle once over with red rouge. This serves to deepen the color of the briar and reveal any scratches or imperfections that the finer grits will have difficulty removing. Satisfied with the results, I continued to wet sand with 1500 grit emery. The final sanding stages were done dry with 3600 and 6000 micro-mesh. At this point in the process, I was simply polishing the briar to prepare it for staining.

I chose Feibings Light Brown dye and gave the stummel a wash coat, undiluted, using a cotton Q-Tip. I set the stain with my Perdomo table-top lighter, and then gave it a thorough rub down with a microfiber cloth. The microfiber works to even out any imperfections in the finish, and noticeably polishes the dye to a nice luster. The bowl is now ready for the buffer.

The stem received an additional scrub with 0000 steel wool wetted with Oxi-Clean to remove any remaining oxidation. I then wet sanded, with water now, using 400 and then 600 grit emery. A quick and gentle buff with red rouge to find any remaining scratches from the steel wool and sandpaper was followed by a wet sand with 1500 emery. I then polished the vulcanite with 3600 and 6000 micro-mesh to prepare it for the buffer.

Both the stem and bowl were given a soft buffing with white diamond on the buffer and then wiped down with microfiber to remove any trace compound.  I then swapped out the white diamond wheel for the wax one, and applied three coats of caranauba wax to the bowl. I like to use a moderate amount of pressure when applying wax as the caranauba is extremely hard and requires the heat generated to go on properly.

After the stem received a coat of Walker Briar Works sealer/wax and the nickel band was polished with Never Dull wadding, everything went back together and was ready to be enjoyed once again. It’s far from perfect, but then, it’s all about the journey, isn’t it? ImageImageImage

Thanks to Steve for inviting me to contribute.

Best Regards,

Gan Barber

A New Tenon on an Old Stem and a Petersons K Briar 999 is Back in Action

Blog by Steve Laug

I picked up this older Peterson 999 K Briar from EBay. It came in a lot with some Barlings, Bewlays and three Imperial Tobacco pipes that I have repaired. This is an interesting pipe in that it is stamped K over Briar on the left side of the shank and on the right side it is stamped 999 “Peterson’s Product” made in England. I had not seen a K Briar pipe from Peterson before. This one is a beauty. It has the appearance of a GBD Rhodesian or a BBB Rhodesian. It has no fills and some very minor sand pits. The stain and finish were in great shape. The stem had just two small bite marks that needed to be taken care of. It has a unique stem that can be seen in the photos below. It is very different from the standard Peterson stem as it is rounded and crowned with a slot in the end of the button.

When the pipe arrived the tenon was broken off at the shank. It was a clean break as can be seen in the photo below. The tenon itself was stuck in the shank. I tried to remove it by my usual method – turning a screw into the airway on the tenon and then pulling. I tried and pulled both by hand and with a pair of vice grips. I clamp down on the screw and try to twist the bowl of the pipe. This tenon was really stuck. I dribbled alcohol down the shank and filled the bowl with cotton bolls and poured in alcohol and so that the inside of the shank could soak. I left it sitting that way over night and in the morning the tenon still would not come out. I figured I would try putting it in the freezer so that the two materials of the shank and tenon would contract and expand at different rates and loosen that way. When I took it out of the freezer I tried to remove it from the shank. It did not move. Nothing I tried seemed to work. I took a drill bit a little bigger than the airway in the tenon and drilled out the tenon very carefully. Once the drill bit was set I backed the drill out and the tenon was free. ImageImageImageImageImage

Once the tenon was out I held the stem vertically on a flat board and sandpaper to make certain that the flat surface of the stem was smooth and that there were no sharp pieces of the old tenon in the way. I drilled the airway in the stem to receive a quarter inch tap. I worked up to the quarter inch drill bit slowly moving from one that was slightly bigger than the airway. I wanted to make sure that the new opening for the Delrin tenon was centred and not off. Once I had it drilled with the ¼ inch drill bit I used a quarter inch tap to thread the hole in the stem. I had ordered threaded tenons from Pipe Makers Emporium and when they arrived I checked the depth on the tapped hole in the stem to make sure that it was the same depth as the length of the new tenon. Once it was correct I turned the new tenon into the threaded hole until it was just about tight and then dripped some super glue into the hole and finished threading the tenon in. I set it aside to dry before trying the tenon for a fit on the pipe. These threaded tenons are great to work with. It is the first time I have used them and it worked like a charm. ImageImage

Once the tenon was set, it was time to work on the stem and remove the oxidation. I used fine grit emery cloth to loosen the oxidation on the stem. From there I proceeded to use 240 grit sandpaper and then used 400 and 600 wet dry sandpaper. I wet the stem and sanded it with the wet dry sandpaper until all of the scratches were gone. The next series of three photos show the fit of the stem with the new tenon. Most of the oxidation is gone at this point. ImageImageImage

I took the pipe to the buffer and buffed the stem with Tripoli to see where I was at with the sanding. The oxidation was gone so I took it back to the worktable and sanded it with the micromesh pads from 1500-12000 grit. The final shine came alive with the 8000 and the 12000 grit micromesh. From that point I took it to the buffer and lightly buffed it with White Diamond. Then I waxed the pipe and stem with carnauba and buffed with a flannel buff. ImageImageImageImage