Daily Archives: February 8, 2014

Restemming and Reworking a Rembrandt Bulldog


Blog by Steve Laug

Another bowl that was sent to me was a nice bent bulldog shape that needed a stem. It was in good shape. The bowl needed to be reamed and the top of the rim lightly topped. It was stemless so I needed to make a stem for it. It was stamped on the left side of the shank Rembrandt over Imported Briar. In researching it on the web I found that the company that made the pipe was The National Briar Pipe Co. It was homed in Jersey City, New Jersey. They produced several brands that I have seen over the years: Biltmore, Forecaster, Honeybrook, King Eric, Kleenest, Mayflower, Rembrandt, Sir Sheldon, The Doodler (created and formerly produced by Tracy Mincer, †1966). Typically the original stem of Rembrandt pipes bore a logo on the left side of the stem – a capital “N” in italics. This bowl had some ding marks on the cap on the left side. There was some damage to the briar between the double rings on the cap.

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I sorted through my stem can and found a nice amberoid acrylic stem that would look great with the bulldog bowl. It needed a tenon so I used a piece of white Delrin that was a perfect fit in the hole in the stem. I scored the Delrin with a hack saw so that the glue would have a surface to stick to. I swabbed then tenon down with superglue and pressed it into the stem.
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Once the glue had set in the stem and the tenon was firmly in place I sanded the tenon down with a folded piece of sandpaper to get a snug fit. I pushed it into the shank and it fit nicely against the shank. The diamond shank was smaller than the diamond saddle on the stem so I needed to sand it down to fit the shank.
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I used 220 grit sandpaper to start the process of shaping the stem and then a sanding drum on a Dremel to bring down the sides of the diamond close to the shank dimensions. I finished the fit with sandpaper and a sanding sponge.
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I sanded the stem and the shank with sandpaper and a sanding block until the transition between them was smooth to touch. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and took the cake back to the wood.
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I set up my topping board and sandpaper and lightly topped the bowl to remove the nicks and cuts in the surface of the rim. I followed up on the sanding board with a sanding block laid on the board and once again turned the bowl into the sanding block to smooth out the scratches left behind by the sandpaper.
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I wiped the bowl down with acetone and cotton pads to remove the finish and make the restaining of the bowl more consistent. I have found that when I have sanded the shank and the rim it is easier to remove as much of the finish as possible before I restain the pipe.
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I sanded the stem with my usual array of micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and then did some more work on the bowl.
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I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain thinned 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol. I stained and flamed the stain and repeated the process until the coverage on the shank and the rim matched the bowl. I hand buffed the pipe with a soft cotton cloth to see where I stood with the finish on the bowl.
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I gave the pipe another coat of the stain and then took the pipe to the buffer and buffed the bowl and stem with White Diamond. When I had finished I buffed it with multiple coats of carnauba wax and then with a soft flannel buff to finish the shine. The completed pipe is shown in the photos below. I really like the way the stain and the striations in the stem work together. I think that this one may well stay I my own collection!
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Restoring a Kaywoodie Drinkless Volcano


I was gifted this Kaywoodie Drinkless Volcano with a three hole stinger by Andrew, a reader of the blog. He wrote me an email about the pipe as follows:

Steve, I have this Kaywoodie Volcano shape with a 3 hole stinger, so probably 70’s or newer. It was burned out when I got it. I ended up slopping some fireplace cement in the bottom of it trying to fix it but it didn’t come out well as I was trying to form it with a pipe tool and it is rough. The stem is over turned as well. I figure this might “challenge” you as far as trying to bring it back to life somehow. Is this is something you might be interested in trying to some how to fix? — Andrew

I wrote back that would gladly see what I could do with it so he sent it out to me to work on. When it arrived I saw that he had begun the work on it already and had reamed and cleaned the bowl. He had mentioned that when he bought it there was a small burn out area on the bottom of the bowl. When I got it the inside of the bowl was actually quite alright. His repair looked quite good. A little cleanup of the bowl would bring things in order. The fireplace cement needed to be cleaned off the walls and rounded a bit in the bottom of the bowl but it was not bad.

Besides the obvious damage to the bowl there was some other damage to the pipe as well. The outer edge of the rim was damaged on the front and the inner edge was slightly out of round. The external bottom of the bowl had a half-inch long crack that had been cleaned out and repaired but there was still a slight groove in the crack. The sides of the crack had been joined and repaired so what remained was cosmetic. The stem was overturned and slightly out of round in comparison to the round metal insert in the shank. The stem had a partial stamp of the KW cloverleaf but was in bad shape in terms of appearance.
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I set up my topping board and topped the bowl of the pipe to remove the damaged portion of the inner and outer edge of the rim. I sanded the top of the bowl, pressing it against the board and turning it in a clockwise direction until the damaged briar was removed. I used a PipNet reamer with a cutting head that fit the bowl diameter and turned it against the cement until it was removed from the sides of the bowl and the bottom of the bowl had a slight indentation.
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I wiped down the bowl with acetone and cotton pads to remove the remaining finish on the bowl and to clean up the partial repair to the bottom crack. I continued to wipe it down until the briar on the bowl was almost the same colouration as the sanded rim of the pipe.
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I scratched out the surface of the crack with a dental pick and packed in some briar dust that I had left from sanding the rim of the pipe. I tamped it and then dripped some superglue into the briar dust until it formed a bubble over the crack. I always overfill the crevices and fills to make sure that when they dry they do not shrink and make a second fill necessary. When the glue had dried I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper and also with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge to smooth out the bubble and blend it into the surface of the bowl.
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On the bottom of the stem there were also two very deep tooth indentations that would not lift when heated with a heat gun. I sanded the area around the dents and dripped clear superglue into the dents. I chose clear superglue as the stem did not appear to be vulcanite. When I sanded it the dust was grey rather than brown. I have found that the clear glue blends very well on this material. When it dries and is sanded it blends in quite well to the surrounding stem material.
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I wiped down the bowl again with acetone and sanded the whole bowl with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge.
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The overturn on the stem is something that is easily corrected. I heated the stinger with a heat gun until the glue holding it in place was softer and then turned it in the metal inserted mortise until it lined up correctly with the bowl. I was almost a quarter turn to the right so I needed to turn it all the way around. Once it was aligned I laid it aside to cool. The final photo gives a clear view of the inside of the bowl. The repaired bowl bottom with the minor adjustments I had made with the PipNet reamer are visible.
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With the stem aligned it was evident that the diameter of the stem was different than that of the shank. In looking at the stem from the stinger end I could see that the left side was slightly larger than the right side. There was an overhang passed the metal insert in the shank. The next photos show that the left side would need to be sanded to fit properly.
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I sanded the stem and shank with 220 grit sandpaper folded and was careful to not sand the stamping on the left side of the shank. I wanted the transition to be perfectly smooth to the touch. I sanded it with medium and fine grit sandpaper to smooth out the scratches left behind by the sandpaper.
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I stained the bowl with an aniline oxblood stain. I applied it and flamed it and reapplied it and flamed it again until I had a good even coverage across the bowl. I hand buffed the finish with a soft cloth.
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I sanded the stem with medium and fine grit sanding sponges and then followed up with my usual array of micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-13,000 grit pads.
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I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and then sanded it a final time with the 4000-13,000 grit pads. I lightly buffed the stem with White Diamond. I screwed the stem back into the shank and then buffed the entirety with White Diamond and then gave the pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean flannel buff for the final shine and protection. The finished pipe is pictured below and is ready for more years of service. The bowl repair done by Andrew provides a solid base in the bowl and the external repair and stem repair makes the pipe cosmetically more pleasing. Thanks Andrew for a good challenge. The pipe is ready for its inaugural smoke. I am sure it will last far longer than I do!
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Refurbishing an Old Zulu Bowl


I was gifted a few pipe bowls that needed to be restemmed and refurbished by a friend. The first of these that I decided to clean up and restem was an old Zulu bowl. It is stamped Algerian Briar over Made in France on the left side of the shank and no other identifying marks. Thus the maker remains a bit of a mystery that I am not sure can be solved. The bowl itself was in fair shape. The cake in the bowl was not thick but it was particularly crumbly and soft. The finish on the pipe was also shot. The varnish coat was gone and the stain was streaked and damaged. There were a cut groove next to the left side of the stamping and a smaller one on the right side of the stamping. The shank was filthy and caked with oils and tars. The rim was in great shape with no damage to either the inside or outside rim. The grain under the stain coat looked promising with cross grain on the front and back of the bowl and the top and bottom of the shank and mixed birdseye on the sides of the both.
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I had a stem in my can of stems that fit almost perfectly. It was damaged and would need some work but the fit and bend was perfect for the Zulu shape.
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I fit the stem in place and wiped down the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to remove the remaining finish on the pipe. I reamed the bowl with a PipNet reamer and took the cake back to bare wood. I cleaned out the shank and the bowl with cotton swabs and Everclear.
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I sanded the stem until the transition between the shank and the stem was smooth. I used both 220 grit sandpaper and medium and fine grit sanding sponges to smooth it out. The end of the stem was badly damaged and the button was ruined. I decided to trim off the damaged end of the stem and rework the button. Once it was cut back I cleaned out the stem with Everclear and pipe cleaners. The stem was badly plugged with tars so I had to use a bent paper clip to push through the airway. I used shank brushes and pipe cleaners to remove the tarry build up and open up the stem once again.
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The airway was still wide and open so I did not need to reshape it. The top and bottom of the button were thin so I could not remove any further material. I reshaped the externals as best as possible by rounding the ends of the stem and making the button more oval in external shape.
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The slight dents in the stem that remained would not lift with heat so I filled them with superglue until they were level with the surface of the stem.
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I cut the new button with needle files and shaped the end of the stem to have a better flow and taper to the new button. This involved removing some of the thickness of the stem and making the taper more angled. I used files and sandpaper to reshape the stem.
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With the new button cut I sanded the stem and the entire pipe with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the remaining finish and make sure the flow of the stem was correct to the angles of the pipe. I also sanded it with a medium and fine grit sanding sponge to remove scratches in the briar and vulcanite.
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The stain around the stamping on the left side of the shank was very set and stubborn. I lightly sanded it to break through the top coat and then scrubbed it with acetone on cotton pads to match it as much as possible to the unstained briar. I stained the bowl with an oxblood aniline stain, flamed it and restained and reflamed until I had an even coverage on the bowl. I hand buffed it with a soft cloth. I took the pipe to the buffer and buffed the stem and bowl with red Tripoli and White Diamond. The photos below show the pipe after the buffing.
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I sanded the stem with my usual array of micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and when it dried hand buffed the stem.
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I buffed the pipe with White Diamond and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I finished by buffing it with a clean soft flannel buffing pad. The finished pipe is pictured below. It is ready to go into service again. I like the flow of the lines on this pipe. The shape and matte like finish work well together.
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