Monthly Archives: February 2014

Some remarks on dealing with damaged stems of smoking pipes by Jacek A. Rochacki

Blog by Jacek A. Rochacki

This is Jacek’s second article on pipe repairs. I appreciate the slant that Jacek brings to the work of pipe refurbishing. His art restoration background lends itself to some beautiful solutions to the challenges that face the pipe refurbisher that are far different from those that have been used by myself and others as we deal with the work we do. I am very appreciative of Jacek’s willingness to share his methodology with us here on rebornpipes. Thank you Jacek for taking the time to write-up these pieces and sending them to us. They are a significant contribution to our work and love of all things pipe.

We all have known many different ways in which the stems/mouthpieces of our pipes are damaged. Let me indicate some of them: – broken mouthpiece – sometime in the middle, often in the “lip”/”button”area – tooth dent – this is often at the lip/button area and it does not look so nice – different holes/losses, mostly in the lip/button area, often such holes are”bitten up” by willing smoker. – broken tenon (sometime it is stuck/jammed in the shank) Let me begin from few words on materials. In general we deal mostly with vulcanite/ebonite and transparent Perspex (some models of GBD). But those are not the only materials. There are some similar materials like Ashtonite invented by late William “Bill” Ashton Taylor and used in his Ashton pipes; it is a little harder than typical vulcanite/ebonite. In older pipes we often see mouthpieces in yellow color looking like and named “Amber”; these are seldom made of original amber, more often of yellow glass-like material and are hard and break easily. (There are also yellow stems of softer materials like vulcanite/ebonite, and I would proceed with them as I usually proceed with black or Cumberland vulcanite/ebonite). Their tenons are often made of different, more appropriate material for their function, possibly bone, and sometimes such tenons are of screw in type. In some briar pipes tenons are made of metal – aluminum. And I know cases when owner wanted such metal tenons to be removed and changed for tenons made of vulcanite, modern Teflon etc. in belief that these materials will “cooperate” better with briar wood. I mention this not as advice as it is “intrusion” into originality of the pipe but as some kind of curiosity. As a matter of fact I note that even in case of vulcanite mouthpieces there was/is tendency to remove original tenons and fit tenons of Teflon or other modern material. Here is list (partial to be sure) of some of the different kinds of vulcanite/ebonite materials that have been used for mouthpieces:

Ace – American Hard Rubber Co., USA
Super-Ace – American Hard Rubber Co., USA
Amcosite – Siemens Bros. & Co., UK
Bulwark – Redfern’s Rubber Works, UK
Cohardite – Connecticut Hard Rubber Co., USA
Dexonite – Dexine Ltd., UK
Endurance American Hard Rubber Co., USA
Gallia-Rubber – French ebonite
Keramot – Siemens Bros. & Co., UK
Level Chuck – American Hard Rubber Co., USA
Luzerne – Luzerne Rubber, USA
Mercury – American Hard Rubber Co., USA
Navy – American Hard Rubber Co., USA
Onazote – Expanded Rubber Co., UK
Permcol – British Hard Rubber Co., UK
Resiston – American Hard Rubber Co., USA
Rub-Erok – Richardson Co., USA
Rub-Tex – Richardson Co., USA
Solid Rubber – used by some English makers in 1914-1918 years

I have seen these names/markings on stems/mouthpieces of old pipes. Sometimes it is of help in dating and attributing a pipe that is so marked. Remember that vulcanization of natural rubber with sulfur was invented by Charles Goodyear in USA in 1839 and was patented in 1843; in the same year Thomas Hancock patented it in Great Britain. Here is have good source on vulcanite

In the’30’s vulcanite of different mixed colors became popular in making pens and is similar to what we see in some mouthpieces of pipes named “Cumberland”.

As vulcanite consists of vulcanized natural rubber, it may be of help to mention that oil (like in old days was used in oil lamps) and/or turpentine may serve as solvents, helpful with restoration if needed be.

I said all this in order to point out the importance of recognizing the material that our mouthpieces are made of in order to find best matching material for making eventual repairs to missing elements etc. The practical solution seems to be making one’s own “stock” of repair materials – simplest would be to collect broken, unrepairable mouthpieces. But there other ways: I found vulcanite rods that were used in schools for experimenting with electricity to be good material for fixing damaged mouthpieces. In the field of transparent materials I have been using old fashioned artificial plastic glass (sometime named Plexiglas) that was used in aviation some half of century ago. It is also important to choose right type of glue.

Beside the matters of tenons, I would briefly divide our work into two categories:
– joining together broken elements
– filling in holes or broken areas.
Of course, in practice these categories will “mix up” together.

In the case of a repairing a stem or mouthpiece that broken in half, the solution is quite simple. What is to be done is to use a strengthening/enforcing invisible element that will serve as sort of “hard core” – constructional element. The simplest way would be to use thin tube of internal diameter corresponding with diameter of the air channel of our mouthpiece. “Walls” of such tube, if it is tube of metal, may be of 0.3 – 0.4 mm in thickness. In order for it be fitted properly, we have to drill a kind of “nest”/mortise/”channel” for it, drilling the air channel with drill bit of proper diameter making this “nest”/mortise as long as required by length of our tube. The choice of such tube is important as not only air but also condensate will be in contact with the tube, so I would avoid brass, copper etc. The best IMO would be a tube of pure silver or high percentage silver alloy, or some aluminum like that which was used by Dunhill for his Inner Tubes, just of larger diameter. Silver tubes may be available in goldsmith’s supply places.

After making proper strengthening/enforcing tube and making sure that all parts fit well, I use simple glue of cyanoacrylic type – kind of “super glue”.

A more advanced way would be to make the strengthening/enforcing/ element – a drilled tube/cylinder from vulcanite/ebonite. It is possible to make it without using a lathe, just the laborious and precise use of files. The starting material could be the broken tenon from unrepairable mouthpiece from our “stock” of materials. The “nests”/mortises in parts to be glued should be of larger/proper diameter, because it is practically impossible to hand make the vulcanite mini tube with walls of 0.3 or similar thickness, so the outer diameter of our vulcanite tube will be larger than in case of metal tube. We make “nests”/mortises/”channels” of required diameter using drill bits of proper diameter. If we are not sure about precision of our fingers necessary for hand making short tube of vulcanite, we may make just a small cylinder of vulcanite of desired size which would make/allow parts to be glued to fit perfectly, and after gluing all parts together, drill the air channel from the tenon side with a long drill bit of right diameter corresponding to diameter of the air channel and in delicate, secure direction-wise way, drill the inserted cylinder through the air channel so the air/draft channel will be “operational” again.

Summary: use the enforcing/strengthening elements and we may be surprised how many unrepairable looking elements may be repaired and then serve really well.

Now for filling in holes or broken areas.

The relatively simple thing seems to be filling in tooth dents. I begin by cleaning the surface of the dent with some sharp tool – scraper or blade of size of small pocket knife, better with rounded tip, such as those found on pipe knives. This is to remove oxidation from the surface that is to be filled. After “cleaning” the surface I take a needle, scraper or similar sharp tool with sharp pointed tip and “score”/”draw” delicate lines/”mini-groves” on the cleaned surface. This is the old trick used in enameling for better adhesion of filling material (extender) that will be “put” on the prepared surface. This material is simple and known us vulcanite dust – the result of filing a properly chosen piece of vulcanite, sometimes it is result of filing the stem that is to be repaired, sometimes we may use another piece of vulcanite from our “stock” if we are sure that it will fit well. Then I mix this dust with cyanoacrylic glue making my “filling material/paste” – kind of putty, and I apply it on scored dent. After some time – rather longer then shorter – say – good couple of hours depending on thickness of the filling, I use a file and sandpaper and finally polish on the patched stem – this is known as the finishing procedures.

After all this please, be prepared for unpleasant surprise at the first glance. The filled up area may be of different color than the color of the stem. Please do not worry! It is not without reason that I have mentioned before that oil (like in old days was used in oil lamps) and/or turpentine may serve as solvents that are helpful with restoration… so a drop of oil or turpentine applied on the repaired area and “distributed”/”smeared” all over will turn the surface of the glued parts to match the rest of the stem. When the surface dries, I would return to delicate polishing and be prepared for repeating such finishing operation as many times as necessary. At very end I would apply a wee drop of olive or proper mineral oil and smear it all over with soft cotton textile; this is old method of conservation of surfaces of objects made of vulcanite/ebonite – “hard rubber”.

This was an easy case. What about situations when the lip or end of the stem/mouthpiece is partly broken, “eaten up”, has holes, or part is missing? Please, take a look at illustrations published by our host at the beginning of his text “Cutting and shaping a new button on a severely damaged stem”

Instead of cutting/removing the damaged part and carving the lip/button of what is left, I would proceed in different way. Keeping in mind my wish of keeping original dimension, proportions, form, I would try to reconstruct damaged stem/mouthpiece as following:

By using sharp cutting tools – engravers/burins, scrapers or in case of better equipped “workshop corner” – cutters, like those used by jewelers for stone settings, or even a sharp pocket knife, a frame saw and needle files I would work on the damaged area making it a proper shape a piece of the same material carved that I will later shape/carve to fit what is missing. The words “making it of proper shape”, may be a subject for another longer text. But as sort of inspiration may be the different ways dentists use to “elaborate” holes in teeth so that the filling will be kept securely in place. In a stem the situation is easier as we have good binding glues and are binding together the same kind of materials – vulcanite/ebonite to vulcanite/ebonite.

When the newly carved material is fixed into the missing area with glue, I work with files and drill bits to achieve desired missing shape. Then I proceed with finishing techniques. Let us look at the pictures:



In case of stems/mouthpieces made of transparent material I have been proceeding as described above, just choosing proper equally transparent material for making missing parts. After polishing the seams are invisible. I would use fast cyanoacrylic glue of kind that creates transparent seams.

In Steve’s article one commenter mentioned a missing lip on his Peterson P-Lip pipe. Again: in glue we trust: just proceed as described above and if the work is done properly, it should be impossible to distinguish reconstructed lip from the rest of the stem by the naked eye. In general, if the whole lip is missing, I would glue in a large piece of matching material and would shape it by files etc. The air channel can be easily drilled (easily as we are dealing with comparatively soft materials) with drill bits of proper diameter.

I would deal with problem with missing or broken tenon in ways described above, depending on particular situation. Sometimes I use the reinforcing “inner tube” glued in place as described above. Other times I drill the “nest”/mortise of a diameter corresponding with diameter of new tenon to let it fit tight and correct/straight then glued in place. The old and best known method of removing broken tenon from the shank is:
– use of strong alcohol to dissolve eventual dried condensate and/or residues that “glued” the broken part in the mortise.
– take a self-tapping screw often used in construction, by woodworkers etc. and screw it into the air channel of broken jammed part in the mortise.
– keeping the head of this screw firmly in place carefully use pliers to twist it out while at the same time pulling on the broken part. If it does not come out it often means that it is still “glued” in place by dried condensate, tars, etc., so go back to the strong alcohol and please, repeat over a couple of hours or even days.

In conclusion I would like to present some simple hand tools that I find useful in working with pipe restoration. I would like also to say, that for cutting vulcanite/ebonite I use the typical jeweler’s frame saw with proper blades, similar to this shown here together with workbench pin and set of blades.







Cutting and shaping a new button on a severely damaged stem

Blog by Steve Laug

I have actually come to enjoy the process of cutting a new button on a stem. It has taken a lot of practice but I can honestly say that I am getting better at it. I still have more to learn; as I am sure will always be the case. But the method I use now can be fine-tuned and personalized by others who choose to use it. That is why I thought that for this article I would walk you through the steps I take when cutting and shaping a new button.

1. A stem that is unrepairable and has sufficient meat to it that if I remove the first ¼ inch or less still has material above and below the airway in the end of the stem. This is a candidate for reshaping and reforming a button. I often take a picture of the remaining button and angles before I trim it back.



Hole in stem

2. I cut off the damaged end of the stem using a Dremel with a sanding drum. I know others use various other tools for cutting it off – saws, carving tools, knives, Exacto knives and a variety of others. The idea here is to remove the damaged material just far enough back on the stem to leave a solid base to recarve the button. At this point the goal is to cut off the material and leave a straight line at the end.







3. Once I have the straight edge I often trim the corners and round them slightly. My goal is to match the original button as much as possible.

4. I use a sharp, straight rasp or a needle file to cut the sharp edge of the button being careful to align the top and the bottom sides of the stem. At this point I am merely marking the button area. The key here is not to make the button to broad but to aim for the original width from the end of the stem to the edge of the button.




5. I use the same needle file to carve back the stem angle from about half way up to reduce the angle to the button and give more depth to the button. This involves using the file like a draw knife and working it from mid stem to the edge that you cut with the file.





6. I generally start with the top of the stem and then work the underside to match the angles of the top. You have to be careful not to draw too deeply with the file as you work it. The end product of the cutting is a gentle taper that when sanded out looks natural. This process also give shape to the button.

7. When I have the taper trimmed and even I work it over with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to remove the file marks. I continue to work and shape the stem. I try to crown the flat blade of the stem slightly by sanding the edges to give the stem a thin profile. This also gives shape to the button.


8. I use the sandpaper to also shape the button in a flattened oval or eye shape. If there is room above and below the airway I also gently slope the button toward the end. I am always using the stems and buttons that I have that like as models for the final look of these reshaped buttons.



9. I use three different needle files to open up the slot on the end of the button. I first use a round file to open the airway and start to cut the funnel in it. When I am done with this first file the airway is beginning to look oval. I then use a slightly oval needle file to further shape the funnel and widen it toward the outer edges of the button. The third file is a flattened oval that gives me the ability to open the edges of the slot and the funnel so that finished airway has a flattened oval or eye shaped look to it. In general I work so that the slot has a shape similar to the shape of the button.



10. I sand the inside of the newly cut airway/funnel with folded sandpaper until it is smooth. I have also used emery boards that I found in the cosmetics department of local drug stores. They are commonly used on fingernails but work well for the inside of the slot.

11. I fine tune the slope of the taper with medium and fine grit sanding sponges to make sure that the slope top and bottom matches. I also work on the sharp angle of the inside edge of the button to give it distinction from the slope of the stem.


12. I sand the stem with micromesh sanding pads from 1500-12,000 grit to polish and bring back the deep shine. I use these on the end of the button and on the edges of the airway to make sure that the slot is smooth.




13. I buff the newly cut button and stem with White Diamond and then give it multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect and preserve it.

14. At this point the stem repair is complete and the new button looks like it was designed for the pipe it graces. (In the first photo below the Perspex stem is pictured next to another identical stem in vulcanite. Compare the two buttons.)






Some remarks on dealing with cracks and splits in briar pipes – by Jacek A. Rochacki, Bydgoszcz, PL, 2014

This morning I received the following email and article from Jacek A. Rochaki from Poland. I have included Jacek’s email in full as he gives a great introduction to himself. He comments on his English and does not need to as it is very good. Thank you Jacek for a wonderful article on repairing cracks in briar pipes.

My name is Jacek A. Rochacki – Jacek for Friends. I am a retired sculptor, silver and goldsmith, conservator, also author of texts on history, theory and practice of applied art in metal and applied art in general plus on conservation; my second professional “incarnation” is historian of applied art. I have been also teaching these subjects in Denmark and in my native Poland.

My imperfect command of English has prevented me from writing much, but my sincere wish to help in repair/restoration of pipes and thus saving them has prompted me to write some remarks with hope, that you will kindly forgive my eventual linguistic mistakes. Let me say that this text in much shorter form has been already published in English-speaking pipe-internet, unfortunately it somehow disappeared so after revision I decided to make the second edition. I should also say that it should be rather written in past tense, not in present tense, as I am not anymore active in my studio.

With kindest regards, Jacek in Poland

Jacek A. Rochacki
Skype: jarochacki

Cracks and/or splits in the stem and in the bowl of briar pipes are often repairable; let me indicate step by step how I have been dealing with such problems. Let me begin by dealing with cracks in the bowl.

1. On the very end of the crack/split the tiny hole should be drilled by a drill of, say, 0.5-0.6 mm in diameter. But kindly keep in mind that this hole should not go through the wall of the bowl just should be drilled deep enough to serve as “stopper” preventing the crack/split to continue. This is an old technique known to woodworkers and restorers/conservators knowledgeable in techniques, tools, workshop of applied art objects. In case of the bowl (or shank) of briar pipe it is not necessary to use the drilling machine but you can twist the drill bit with your fingers.

2. Delicate but thorough cleaning of the crack/split in order to remove any sort of dirt, especially to degrease the crack/split itself and the adjoining/neighboring area. I often use “pure” alcohol, say, 98-99%. Then the cleaned bowl should dry for a period of, say, two-three days.

3. When the crack/split and the adjoining area of the briar is clean and dry, I simply use the properly chosen glue. Some sources recommend the cyano-acrylic glue, possibly in the consistency of gel rather, then in very liquid form. I was told that so called Super Glue should do the job, but I use a two part epoxy resin with a hardener, which meets two conditions: it is heat-resistant, and it creates a “flexible” joint. This is important because during thermal operations (pipe smoking) the briar “works” – gets larger and smaller according to the change of temperature.

The two part epoxy resin which I use, according to the representative of the manufacturer of this glue will be “working” – getting larger and smaller when “exposed” to change of temperatures in a way similar to briar. This very glue – as I’ve been informed – is heat resistant up to 200 C/392 F. Unfortunately I was given the epoxy as a gift in two small samples and not the original jars, so I can’t give more precise information. All I know is that the manufacturer is Chester Molecular Company. So when I have the glue ready, I apply it into the crack/split as deeply as possible; the experienced restorer, “clever with his hands” may even try with utmost possible care to split the crack a little wider in order to let the glue penetrate as deeply as possible. Here I do not have to mention, that it is an extremely risky operation, because the widening of the split may cause the bowl to break! When the glue is applied, you have to press the glued bowl in order to let the glue do its job. I often place the glued bowl (wrapped in some soft textile, leather or felt in order to prevent damage of the surface) in a vice jaws and carefully apply the force; a simpler method would be just to use thread wrapped tightly several times around the glued briar. I let it sit for rather long time to dry thoroughly – details should be provided by the glue manufacturer.

Gluing stems pressed by “force wrapping” with thread

Gluing stems pressed by “force wrapping” with thread

4. When the glued bowl has dried, there is time to clean the surface. At first I would got rid of eventual “overflow” of the glue from the surface by use of engraving tools, scrapers or even ordinary, but sharp pocket knife. Since I often deal with a sandblasted bowl I would not go for sandpapers, just do the job with sharp tools mentioned above, trying to follow texture/grooves of the sandblasted finish. In case of various Dunhills that came through my hands I didn’t find necessary to improve the color by staining the bowl. I just ordinarily use a professional polishing/buffing machine with polishing textile mops with turning with speed of approximately 2200 – 2800 r.p.m. with use of (gradually):

a. A pre-polish paste/material (like German Menzerna, or other modern equivalent of traditional Tripoli compound).

b. A”white” polishing material (like White Dialux (ed. White Diamond in North America).

c. Carnauba wax/resin, known to the pipe world does the job well.

In many cases it is enough; typing this text I am smoking my Dunhill ES Shell Briar, vintage 1967 which came into my possession with a bowl severely damaged, and since I applied the procedures described above it smokes perfect, with no signs of reappearing cracks that are repaired.

Restoration of crack in a Dunhill ES

Restoration of crack in a Dunhill ES

Restored Dunhill ES

Restored Dunhill ES

But in some cases it would not be amiss to enforce the glued bowl by applying the element of metal – possibly of silver of high quality – a ring. In some cases it would make sense to create not just a top ring/band but whole “cap”, sometimeswith metal “mustaches” that will cover and enforce the fixed cracks.

Top “cap” and stem band

Top “cap” and stem band

Band with LK monogram

Band with LK monogram

Top “cap” with “mustaches”

Top “cap” with “mustaches”

Top “cap” with “mustaches”

Top “cap” with “mustaches”

Continuing the topic of repairing cracks or/and splits: I know about different metal – often silver – elements, used in repair procedures. They are used mainly in order to re-enforce the construction/structure weakened by the crack/split/mechanical damage, and to mask the place that has been damaged as well. This simple sentence/statement should be a topic for longer explanation; let me just say, that “silver” – more precisely: the two component alloy of silver and copper is recommended because of its softness – thus it has a better ability for three dimensional forming – but it is also (unfortunately) a good conductor and “keeper” of heat. So I would keep this in mind, and always take this under consideration, when thinking on using large portions of silver element to be fixed on the surface of the bowl. The wrong distribution of the heat may result in a burned/charred smoking chamber at the place, where the fairly large piece of the “heat keeper”=silver element is permanently fixed on the outside of the bowl. I say this with regard to what I read sometimes on the internet about the usage of metal – maybe silver – fairly large elements in the process of repairing such or similar damages.

I believe that we should pay attention to the kind of silver – silver alloy employed in the repairing process. Remember, that the higher amount of pure silver (or gold) in the alloy, the easier the process of forming will go (of course after proper “softening” which goldsmiths and silversmiths call annealing). So I am a smith, who, for dealing with many cases, instead of using “Sterling Silver”, so common these days which is an alloy of 92.5% of pure silver and 7.5% of copper, will go for “old fashioned” alloy once popular among British top silversmiths, named Britannia Standard and which consists of 95.8% of pure silver. For some purposes I would use even pure silver plate or elements like clasps, because of the absence of copper prevents the “bad” chemical processes which may eventually trigger out, when elements containing copper contact with condensate and make foul taste in a carelessly repaired pipe. The higher amount of pure silver or gold in the alloy, the more such alloy is usable for forming.

I mentioned clasps. I use them often when repairing long cracks/splits in the shank of a pipe, especially at the bottom of Canadian shaped pipes, when the use of “traditional” silver or gold band would cover part of the signature or, because of technical reasons I do not want to go over the whole area of the shank at the repaired area. I want to avoid intrusion into the markings area at all costs as I am an applied art conservator. But sometimes it is impossible to make a repair band with sort of “windows” showing the signature – the whole area or part of it. I put strong accent on this aspect as signatures/markings must never be masked/covered/destroyed, like in restoration of other objects of art. I make my clasps usually of 0.4 mm in diameter pure silver wire and I place them in specially elaborated/carved grooves/”nests”, always keeping their tops at the level of briar surface of the repaired area. Then I usually cover the area repaired in such way with very thin (0.3-0.4 mm) plate of silver, leveled up to the surface of the outer briar area at repaired place.

Cracks reinforced by clasps of pure silver in order to avoid bad chemical reaction with condensate and ready for fixing silver plaquettes or repair ring with “window”

Cracks reinforced by clasps of pure silver in order to avoid bad chemical reaction with condensate and ready for fixing silver plaquettes or repair ring with “window”

Cracks reinforced by clasps of pure silver in order to avoid bad chemical reaction with condensate or ready for repair ring with “window” – before and after fixing silver plaquettes or repair ring

Cracks reinforced by clasps of pure silver in order to avoid bad chemical reaction with condensate or ready for repair ring with “window” – before and after fixing silver plaquettes or repair ring

Silver plaquettes with monograms covering cracks fixed with clasps

Silver plaquettes with monograms covering cracks fixed with clasps

Sometimes I put my signature, and even the stamp REP (repaired) on it as it should be done in professional conservation to mark change in the original object, or just an engraved ornament in order to make such plate looking nice. This we may consider as symbolic homage to great British and not only British tradition of silver craft, where the way of placing the hallmarks, maker’s marks etc. used to be an important part of the aesthetics of the composition of the stamped object. And I go similar way in case of repair band/ring if I deal with split at the end of the shank. I believe that we all are familiar with ornamental silver rings; some of them may be repair rings first of all. (The following photos show some of the ornamental rings that I have crafted and used.)









A Call for Written Submissions

reborn logo1

As the founder of the rebornpipes blog I have been excited to read about the refurbishing work that many of you are doing. One of my dreams when I started the blog was to provide a place for the interchange of ideas and methods used by us amateur/hobby refurbishers. To some degree that dream is being met. There are a growing number of refurbishers who are taking the time to write up their work and share their methods here on the blog. I am so thankful for their willingness and generosity in sharing with us all.

Beyond that though it is important to realize that receiving articles from others helps to broaden the base of information available on the blog. It is great to read about your application of some of the methods that we have written about. It is encouraging to see them work for you as well as they have for us. It is also exciting to hear about your own creative solutions to the challenges in our hobby. Thank you for your work.

In this second year of the blog’s life I would love to hear from more of you. If you have articles that you have written about your work or could take the time to document what you are doing as you refurbish old estate pipes please send them to me. Or if try your hand at carving your own pipes why not submit the documentation of that work. It is a pleasure to hear from you all and to see what you are doing. I find it personally encouraging seeing the many people across the globe who are practicing our art.

Articles can be emailed to me at and I will put them on the blog. Articles should be written in Word or some equivalent word processing program and have the photos of the work inserted in the body of the text or at least attached with notes as to where they fit so that I can insert them for you.

Thanks for considering writing for the blog. The more the merrier who take the time to record their work and share it with others who read the blog regularly. I look forward to hearing from more of you. Why not join the ranks of those who are posting their work here on the blog. Share your skills and learning with us. Though our writers are not paid (neither am I) it is rewarding to be able to share our information with fellow pipemen across the globe and to hear from them.

Out Damned Spot!…or at Least Hide – By Josiah Ruotsinoja

Josiah and I have been emailing back and forth on this old Kaywoodie for quite a while now. I asked him to do a write up for the blog on it as he tried some different ways of minimizing stains to the briar. Each method he used has its own application and effect. Josiah did a great job writing this up and demonstrating the way the method worked and the results of the application. Thanks Josiah for the great work. I look forward to reading more about your refurbishing in the days ahead.

This last August, I acquired a Lot of estate Kaywoodies. All were in fair condition. Some looked like old, loved friends and a couple hardly smoked at all. One was unsmoked with the price sticker still on the stem. I’m guessing that all came from the same estate judging from the burn pattern on the rims. The main issues to be dealt with were the moderate burns on the rim and some spots from sitting in something wet. These spots proved to be the more serious problem, as you may gather from the title.
Among them was this Connoisseur #69 pot.


As you can see, there was quite a lot of grime and a large dark spot on the left side of the bowl. Another, less severe spot was on the bottom of the shank. However, it appeared to be in good condition overall with nice thick walls and no deep dents or scratches. The bowl had some very nice birdseye on both sides. Visions of a nice blond or honey colored stain immediately jumped into my head.

Time to restore! My first steps were to ream the bowl and put it in an alcohol bath and soak the stem in an Oxyclean solution. The stem came clean and polished up nicely without much trouble. I heated up the stinger and screwed it in to the mortise while still warm to correct the alignment.

The grime on the rim came off quickly, but there were a couple pretty deep scorch marks. I started off topping the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper, but it quickly became apparent that it was going to take forever with that fine a grit. So I started over with 80 grit until most of the burn was removed and worked my way up through 600 until it was gone. Then I put a slight bevel on the outer and inner rim.

Now for the real problem. The water marks (I kinda think old motor oil) hadn’t come out in the alcohol bath as I had hoped it would. Having never dealt with removing such marks from wood, I decided I needed to consult someone with more experience. I sent an email off to Steve here at the blog for advice. In response he suggested a few options: lemon juice, bleach, oxalic acid and as a last resort sand paper.

First, I tried lemon juice.That worked to a degree, but the stains were still clearly visible. Here are the marks after the lemon juice.


I figured anything I could see would be more visible after applying stain, but I decided to give it a try anyway. I sanded the entire surface from 220 up to about 6000 grit. I applied stain and flamed it to set the stain. Below is the first attempt…not so successful.


So I sanded off the stain again and went for bleach. I almost ruined the whole project here by leaving the bowl in the bleach too long. It raised the grain quite a bit and penetrated further than I expected.


After sanding, I managed to get most of the white patched off and the surface smooth again.


On to attempt #2 with stain…


Better results, but the stains were still clearly visible. I moved on to oxalic acid crystals. I mixed a paste of crystals and water, applied it, let it dry and sanded the dried mixture off. Use a particle mask when sanding this stuff. It’s not something you want to inhale.


I tried once more with stain and the results were similar to the second attempt. I seem to have lost the pictures for this, but by this time, you get the idea. This last unsuccessful attempt made it clear to me that I must admit defeat and give up my dreams for a shapely blond and give a brunette a try. The repeated sanding, staining and sanding again had taken its toll on the nomenclature and the side profile was starting to flatten out. In order to save the now faint stampings, I chose a nice deep espresso color and success! The pesky spots are now hiding well in the rich stain. I think that only a very well trained eye, or one that knew the stains were there in the first place, would be able to spot them.


So after a lot of work, I have myself a beautiful Kaywoodie pot. Disaster almost struck in its inaugural smoke, however, when the Kaywoodie club fell out of the stem, the original glue having lost its glue-iness after the soak in the Oxyclean. I managed to find it where I had been sitting and it’s safely superglued back in place.

Many thanks to Steve for his suggestions. Even if it didn’t turn out the way I planned originally, I now have options for tackling similar problems in the future and about a pound of oxalic acid to try to remove the stains my 13 year old has left on her bedroom window sill.

Repairing and Restemming an Older Unsmoked Paneled Dublin

This paneled Dublin came to me from Mark Domingues in a package that he sent. I think he sent it for possible briar to be used in the repair of the Peterson Irish Whiskey 999 that I worked on. The shank was quite badly cracked but otherwise this small pipe had not been smoked. The shank and the bowl were absolutely clean and unsmoked! All that sat in the bottom of the bowl was dust. The pipe is quite small as can be seen from my finger and thumb in the photo below. The finish was quite good, just a few small places on the edges of the panels that had rub spots on them. The shank was long so I looked at my options in repairing and restemming it. It was an older unsmoked pipe so it would have been a shame to pitch it in the bin. I could either band it or shorten the shank and then fit the stem.

The next two photos, though slightly out of focus show the crack in the shank. I opened it up with a dental pick to show the extent of the damage.


After looking at the extent of the damage and weighing my options I chose to shorten the length of the shank. It had a deep set mortise so that would not be a problem. If I needed to I could drill it more deeply but time would tell. I decided to use a brass fitting on the shank to give me a straight line to saw. I have seen too many shank shortenings that have come out crooked so I figured a guide would keep the line straight. I used a hack saw with a fine blade to saw off the broken portion.



I used a Dremel to smooth out the end of the shank and remove the small pieces that stayed behind when the cut went through. I left the brass band in place while I sanded the end of the shank. I used a knife with a sharp blade to bevel the inner edge of the end of the mortise to receive the tenon and stem more closely. I liked the look of the brass pressure fitting so I decided to leave it as a band. I glued it in place with wood glue. I used a Dremel to trim off some of the excess on the tenon of the stem from my can and then followed up with a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper until the tenon fit snugly in the shank.





I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper followed by a medium grit and fine grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches and shape the stem at the end next to the band. I also used the Dremel to remove the ridges on the brass pressure fitting and give it a more rounded appearance. I sanded the band with the sandpaper and sanding sponges as well.




I finished sanding the stem with the micromesh sanding pads to polish it and give it a deep sheen. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanded with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and when it was dry buffed it with White Diamond.



To touch up the rubbed areas on the ridges of the panels I stained the entire bowl with a dark brown aniline stain. I applied with cotton swabs and then flamed it. I hand rubbed the bowl with a soft cotton cloth.




I took the pipe to the buffer and buffed the stem and bowl with White Diamond. I avoided the band at this point as it leaves behind a black residue when buffed. I removed the stem and buffed the band with Red Tripoli and then lightly buffed it with White Diamond. I gave the entire pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed to a shine with a clean flannel buff. The finished pipe is shown below. It is ready for that long awaited inaugural bowl of tobacco. I am not sure what I will use to christen this new bowl but once the head cold I have leaves I have several in mind.




Don’t Despise Me Because of What You See

I can see you looking down at me shaking your head and wondering why anyone would try to sell this piece of junk. You pick me up and turn me over in your hands. You shake your head when you see the cake so thick that you can barely squeeze your small finger let alone any more tobacco into my bowl, don’t misunderstand. You see the edges of my rim beat up from being knocked on my head to remove the dottle at the end of a smoke, don’t misunderstand. You see my finish worn and thin on the sides of the bowl and soiled with oil and grit, don’t misunderstand. You see the gap between my stem and my shank with the ooze bubbling out in the gap, please don’t misunderstand. You see the end of my stem chewed, gnawed and almost unrecognizable, don’t misunderstand.

You see, I know that you look at me and see the damage and wear on my person, but do not negate the value I have just because you cannot see through the grime and the damage. The value I have is irrespective of the appearance I have at this moment in time. I was the beloved pipe of my pipeman. In fact I was his only pipe for so many years. I think that as he grew older and I grew older he could not see or feel the subtle changes that were occurring in my person. I was like a worn shoe; I fit well in his hand and brought respite and comfort as the warmth radiated from the burning tobacco. I well remember his caress as he rubbed the sides of my bowl as he drew the smoke into his mouth. I remember the oils of his nose as he rubbed the warm bowl against his nose to oil my briar.

Yes, you see the damage and easily write me off as a pipe that has outlived its usefulness. As if, all that remained for me was the scrap heap or the fireplace. But don’t sell me short. I am not the abused waif of a careless piper who did not give a lick for his pipe. I am not a forgotten and despised pipe sitting discarded after hard use. No. I am the proud deliverer of many a grand smoke. I am the favourite pipe of the pipeman who called me his own. I have travelled with him around the globe on his business, providing him with repeatedly good smokes. You see, my state is not a reflection of neglect at all, but rather the reflection of love and affection. It is not a reflection of abuse but of jealous love.

I wish I could shout out to you to give me a chance. Clean out my bowl and shank. Polish my briar and replace my stem. Refurbish me and give me a new breath of life. I would tell you of the many good years that remain in my briar. I would speak of the fact that I will outlive you if you bring me back to life. I would deliver a well seasoned smoke from the first bowl you load and light. But alas, I cannot speak in words that most people can hear. Or maybe they are just deaf to my words or have not learned the language of the pipe. Yes that’s it. It is not my problem, as can you can no doubt see, I am not at a loss for words. It has to be the problem of the listener. Do you hear me as you hold me? Can you sense my presence?

Ah, I must be getting through to you. I see a change in your expression. The creases around your eyes and the upturned corners of your mouth show a different face than earlier looked down upon me. What is that you are doing? You twist off my stem and give my shank a look. You run your hands over the stem itself looking at the extent of the damage there and assessing what needs to be done. You hold me up to the light and look through the grease and grime at the briar of my sides and top. You nod as you look. You do hear me. You see the fine lines and the good grain. You see the rich colours under the grit. You look into my bowl and not only do you see the cake but you see the remnant of tobacco in the bottom of the bowl. You sniff the smell and the grin on your face spreads. You appreciate the tobacco smells that fill your nostrils. Oh my, will you rescue me and take me home? Will you restore me to my former state? Oh I do hope so.

What’s this? You don’t put me back on the shelf. You don’t set me down. You carry me to the front of the store and the antique dealer takes your payment for me. My, was the cost only $12? You must have some idea of what I originally cost. You just got a bargain my friend. I hear the seller ask if you would like to have me wrapped and put in a bag. I hear you say no. You would rather carry me out in your hand. I think this new relationship shows some promise. Now let’s get home and get to work on me. I can’t wait until I look like I used to and I am delivering a grand smoke to you my new friend.

Thank you for not despising me. Thank you for understanding that beneath the grime and age is a living pipe that has much life left in it. Thank you for knowing that with minimal effort, truly just minimal effort, I can be restored to a life of usefulness that will last longer than you do my friend. Ah, I can’t wait to show you what you have found.

Steve Laug 14 February 2014