The Resurrection of a Thomas Spanu Olive Pipe

Blog by Steve Laug

I was gifted this old Thomas Spanu Bamboo shanked bent billiard made out of Olive wood. It was originally a beautiful pipe. The grain on the olive was very nice and the bamboo shank had a nice patina to it. The problem was that it was snapped at the shank bowl junction and the bamboo at the mouthpiece had a crack that was separating. I knew it was this way when my friend sent it to me. But I was not prepared for the mess that it truly was. What was a shame about it was that the pipe was barely smoked. The bottom of the bowl was still raw wood. I knew I had to give this a try.

I utilized the same procedure that Gan spelled out in his post here on the blog regarding the work on the Peterson. I used the same epoxy he recommended – 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. I learned of this method from Gan early on when we were sharing tricks of refurbishing with each other. I mixed the two parts of the JB Kwik (epoxy/catalyst) and had plenty of working time to align the two pieces of the pipe stummel. I held them together tightly for three minutes and then released. The bond was good and though it shows because of the angles of the grain it is strong.

I then sanded bowl and the shank with 240 grit sandpaper to reduce the width of the glue. There was no way to hide the mark but I wanted to minimize it. I sanded until the line was thin and not overlapping on the surface of the olive wood. The picture below shows the bowl at that point in the process. I also used a small hacksaw to trim back the broken and cracked bamboo on the shank. I wanted to remove the entire cracked portion and then strengthen the remaining bamboo. To strengthen it I dripped superglue on the open end and then faced the new end on my sanding board to get a smooth flat surface for the stem.


After the preparation and repair was done I sanded the bowl with micromesh pads to remove all scratches and then buffed the shank and bowl with White Diamond to give it a final polish. I did some work on the stem (Lucite) to make the fit and transition more even. I sanded it and then polished it with micromesh and Tripoli and White Diamond to smooth it out.  I then gave the entire pipe several coats of carnauba wax which I buffed with a soft flannel buffing pad. It is not beautiful and the repair shows, but the pipe smokes very well

Image! Image ImageImage

September 2, 2012 – This evening I decided to try rusticating the shank as Gan recommended in one of the comments. I used the modified Philips screwdriver that I used for rustication. Once I had it rusticated I restained it with medium brown aniline stain. I stained the shank and then the bowl as well. I wiped down the bowl with a bit of acetone to lighten the bowl colouration. Here is the finished product. It worked well Gan. Thanks for the recommendation Gan. 
I reworked the stem on the pipe this afternoon to try and get a closer match to the bamboo shank. It is better but still far from perfect. IMG_8063 IMG_8064 IMG_8065

4 thoughts on “The Resurrection of a Thomas Spanu Olive Pipe

  1. Gan Barber

    Very nice Steve. That really changed the look of the pipe – gave it more substance. The texture of the rustication is perfect. Now, the question we always ask each other – how does it smoke…..?

  2. rebornpipes Post author

    Thanks Gan. That is a great idea to rusticate the shank. I think I will give that a go one day soon. The stain will give it a fresh look and the joint will disappear well into the rustication. I have not rusticated Olive wood before so that in itself will be interesting.

  3. Gan Barber

    Nice job Steve. Interesting pipe. When I look at the difference in grain between the bowl and shank, I can’t help but see another possibility here. Granted, this step will alter the original design, but since you’ve resurrected a pipe that would have normally been discared, it might be fun to try….. How about doing a very fine rustication pattern, perhaps using a tool made from a small phillips head screwdriver, and, following the natural flowing line created by the striated grain pattern on the bowl, rusticate the smooth grainless shank? Then, apply a dye color similar to the stem on the rustication for a balanced contrast. This will hide the glue joint (the JB will rusticate nicely) and give the pipe a new look.

    As per our usual banter, these suggestions are made with all due respect to the work you’ve already performed. -Gan


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