Blog by Steve Laug
This pipe was posted on Smokers Forums as one that was in rough shape. http://www.smokersforums.co.uk/showthread.php?273-Whew! As soon as I saw it I thought it would be fun to take on as a challenge and see what could be made of it. It was truly in very rough shape. So I put in a low bid on EBay and it was mine. Only the wait remained before I would see what I got myself into.
When it arrived I opened the box and took it out to see what I had to deal with on it. The stem was stuck in the shank and it was off center. I made a guess that it was a screw in stem – metal tenon and some kind of condenser. The finish was absolutely ruined. There was an opaque film all over the bowl and shank of varnish that had gone bad. There were crackles in the finish. The shank was crack badly and the shank was no longer square – the crack had expanded away from the angles of the pipe. The rim was invisible and the bowl was caked with a thick cake but upon examination it was full of cracks and crevices rather than a hard cake of carbon. Looking at what I could see of the inner edge of the rim it seemed like it was not damaged – at least not by reaming! There were several burn spots on the outside of the bowl around the rim and left side of the bowl from laying the pipe in an ash tray with a cigarette. It would indeed be a challenge and one that I wondered seriously about for a few moments.
I immediately put it in the freezer for a half an hour to see if I could loosen the stem from the shank. Once I took it out I was able to twist off the stem and remove it from the shank. I took it to my work table and examined it to see what I had to work with. I was quite happy to see that the shank had a metal tube inside that was threaded to receive the tenon. The tube extended into the shank about an inch. This would make a repair on the crack quite simple and not require that I band the pipe. The stem was overturned and the tenon would need to be heated until it was loose and then realigned on the shank. The insert in the shank extended further than the end of the shank and kept the stem from seating correctly against the shank. I also noted that the stamping did not read Worchester as the seller had listed it but that it read Dorchester and underneath that Algerian Briar. There was also damage on the shank near the bowl on the right side where the edge was pretty chewed up by what looked like a pair of pliers used to try and remove the stem from the shank. The slot in the button was clogged with oils and tars so I was assuming that insides were the same way. The stem had white spots on it that at first appeared to be paint but were actually pits in the stem. It appeared to be made of something other than vulcanite. I was not sure what it was but it was not rubber. All of the issues with this pipe, and they were many, but it was very repairable.
I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer using the smallest cutting head first and gradually working up to the diameter of the bowl. I wanted to ream the pipe back to bare briar to give a fresh start and be able to see if there were any burn out issues in the bowl. There were none.
With the bowl reamed and the cake gone it was time to clean the exterior of the bowl and rim. I wiped it down with acetone to remove the finish and break up the crackled varnish that is visible in the above photos. I also lightly topped the bowl with a sanding block to remove the crumbly build up on the rim. I was guessing from my examination that the rim itself was not damaged so a light topping to remove the buildup would be all I would need to do. The next series of photos show the process of wiping down the bowl, topping it and wiping it down a second time after topping. While most of the varnish finish was gone, not all of it would come off with the acetone wash. So in the last picture below you can see the crackly finish on the shank and at the bowl junction.
I decided to drop the bowl in my alcohol bath to soak while I worked on cleaning up the stem. I use an alcohol bath to soak the pipe bowl and get underneath the varnish coat. Once it comes out of the bath it is relatively simple to wipe off the remaining finish. While it soaked I scrubbed the stem with Everclear and a soft bristle tooth brush. I scrubbed off the surface grit and grim and also worked on the button and slot to loosen the grit. I scrubbed the condenser as well with the Everclear and also used 0000 steel wool to polish it. I cleaned out the inside of the stem with thick and bristle pipe cleaners. Once it was clean it was time to take the bowl out of the bath.
I removed the pipe from the bath and scrubbed it with the tooth brush. I worked on the grooves in the bowl and also at the shank bowl junction. I dried it off and prepared it for work on the cracked shank. The crackled finish was finally gone and the pipe was clean.
I scrubbed the area around the crack in the shank and picked out dust and particles with a dental pick. I dripped clear superglue into the crack and packed in briar dust with a dental pick. I clamped the cracked area and set it aside to cure for about a half hour.
Once I removed the clamp the crack was sealed and the shank was returned to its original shape. I sanded the shank area to remove the excess superglue and the briar dust that was on the surface. The photo below gives a clear picture of the end view of the repaired shank and how it was squared up.
The next step in the repair process was correcting the overturned stem. I removed the stem and sanded the metal end of the mortise insert flush with the shank end. Then I heated the tenon over a heat gun and when it was warm screwed it on to the shank and turned it until it lined up well with the shank.
With the stem and shank aligned I sanded the shank area to clean up the damage to the right side where the marks were from someone’s pliers. I also sanded the stem shank junction and the repaired crack with a sanding block until the sides were all smooth in their transition from stem to shank. I wiped it down with an acetone wet cotton pad to remove the sanding dust and prepare it for staining. I used a black permanent marker to cover the fills in the bowl. I have found that when I follow the grain pattern with the marker before restaining the stain works well to mask the fills.
I chose to do a contrasting stain on this pipe, a black understain and an oxblood/mahogany top stain. I heated the briar and then applied a black aniline stain to the pipe. I applied it with a cotton swab and flamed it with a lighter. I reapplied the stain and also flamed it again to set the stain in the briar.
I wiped the bowl down with acetone to lighten the black stain and make the grain stand out on the pipe. I also sanded it with a fine grit sanding sponge.
From the above photos you can see the coverage of the black stain and the way in which the black permanent marker blends into the grain of the pipe. I wiped the pipe down repeatedly until it was the colour I wanted before I put on the next coat of stain. For the top coat I chose to use an oxblood or mahogany coloured aniline paste stain. I rubbed it on with cotton swabs and wiped it off with a soft cloth.
At this point I wiped the bowl down a second time with acetone wetted cotton pads and lightened the reddish finish. The fills are slightly visible but once the pipe is buffed and polished they will be blended in better. I buffed the bowl with White Diamond to remove more of the excess stain and help the contrasting under stain to show. I sanded the stem with a fine grit sanding pad, and then with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit until it shined. I then gave it a rub down with Obsidian Oil and finally with multiple coats of carnauba wax. Here is the finished pipe. It is ready to smoke and will in all likelihood last longer than I will. The lightweight aged Algerian briar evidently made this a great smoking pipe for the previous owner and it will remain that I am sure for the owners to come.