Blog by Steve Laug
The pipe I repaired today was the one I wrote about earlier entitled When is a Pipe Not Worth Repairing https://rebornpipes.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/when-is-a-pipe-not-worth-repairing/ It was stamped Tinderbox Monza and according to a 1974 catalogue on Chris Keene’s site it originally sold for $15. It could be purchased in a matte finish smooth or a hand rusticated version. The shapes were varied and the sizes also varied. I have repaired one other pipe that had the same rustication but no stamping on it so I would imagine it also is a Monza. Monza pipes were made by Lorenzo for Tinderbox. They were a house line of Italian made affordable pipes during the 70’s.
This particular Monza had seen better days. I described it in my earlier essay as being virtually ready for the scrap heap. The bowl was badly caked and the one inch diameter bowl had been reduced to a hole small enough that I could barely squeeze my little finger in the bowl. The top portion of the cake had been carved or hacked away with a knife and the bottom portion had also been hacked away. This left a solid girdle of carbon cake around the middle of the bowl. The bottom of the bowl had been gouged at and the right side of the bottom had a huge “smile” carved in it. The rim had been hammered into rough shape so that the outer edge was ruined. The lava build up on the rim was very thick and it totally covered striated rustication that had been present when the pot was new.
The stem was chewed and carved with a huge chunk out of the underside making it non-repairable. The stem had then been covered with a softy bit and left to calcify on the stem. The pipe was a mess. Once I removed the stem I could see that the airway had been left immaculate. There were no tars, no oils, no dirt – it literally shined it was so clean. The inside of the stem was the same. This pipe had been cared for in a functional way and probably smoked to death by the original purchaser. It was the clean airway that tempted me to give this pipe a remake. It must have been someone’s favourite pipe for him to go to the extremes that this pipe had seen in terms of treatment. Every action the fellow carried out on this pipe only made sense in a utilitarian sense of prolonging the purpose the pipe was made for.
The outer edge of the rim on the back of the bowl had a chunk missing and a crack running down the outside of the bowl. It also ran on the top of the rim and had yet to break through on the inside of the bowl. The crack ran down along one of the striations carved in the bowl for about ½ inch. It was not very deep once it moved away from the chip at the top edge of the bowl.
The close up photo below shows the cake that forms a ridge around the centre of the bowl. The top had been carved away and the below the ring of cake it had also been carved away. The bowl bottom visible on the top of the photo below shows the gouge that had been carved on that side of the bottom. The other side remained intact and hard.
I reamed the bowl with the largest PipNet reamer cutting head in the set and was able to scrape the cake back to the wood. I wanted to see if the walls of the bowl were charred or burned. I further scraped it with a knife blade and found that the walls were solid under the cake. The wood did not have burned or charred portions.
The stem was ruined as can be seen in the photo below. The bottom side was missing a large triangular shaped chunk that went almost from side to side. I thought about cutting off the end and reshaping the button but the damage was extensive and the previous owner had carved the airway in the broken portion so the material left behind on the top and bottom of the stem was scored and very thin. I would need to fit and shape a new stem.
I picked at the surface of the rim with the dental pick and could see it was not going to work so I topped the bowl. I decided to make a smooth rim to match the smooth band on the shank and the bottom of the shank. They would set each other off well when the pipe was restained. I set up my topping board and a piece of 220 grit sandpaper and twisted the bowl into the sandpaper until I had removed the damaged portion of the rim. The crack on the surface looked as if it had been filled already with some sort of glue and it was solid. This is visible in the photos below.
Once the bowl was topped I dropped it in the alcohol bath to soak and loosen the grit and grime that filled all of the rustication on the sides of the bowl. It was a sticky and tarry mess and I wanted to soften it. I soaked it for about an hour and then scrubbed it with a brass tire brush. I picked out all of the grooves with the dental pick and then put it back in the alcohol bath for yet another hour. Once it came out of the bath I scrubbed a final time with the brush and then picked out any remaining grit in the grooves. I then wiped the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads to remove the softened finish and the remaining grime.
I found an old stem blank in my can of blanks that would work with the pipe. It was not a saddle stem like the original one but it would work well. It was considerably larger in diameter than the shank of the pipe so not only would I need to use the PIMO tenon turner to fit it in the shank but I would also need to remove the excess vulcanite and match it to the shank.
I used the Dremel with the larger sanding drum that comes with the set to cut back the vulcanite and shape the stem. This takes time and a steady hand to keep it from nicking the briar and causing more damage than help.
Once I had the stem close to the diameter of the shank I took it back to the work table and hand sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to finish the fit. I sanded it until the transition between the shank and the stem was seamless. My fingers needed a break from sanding at this point so I decided to repair the gouged out bottom half of the bowl. I inserted a pipe cleaner in the airway to keep any of the plaster mix getting into the airway. Then I mixed up some plaster of Paris in a shot glass and used the spoon end of a pipe nail to put it in place in the bottom of the bowl. I tamped it with the tamper head of the nail and smooth it out.
When the plaster had set I stained the bowl with a dark brown aniline stain mixed 2:1 with isopropyl alcohol. I wanted the dark stain in the striations to come through the stain coat and give some contrast to the coloration of the bowl. I applied the stain with a cotton swab, flamed it and reapplied and reflamed it until the coverage was even across the bowl. I worked to get the rim and the smooth portions of the shank to match in colour.
I sanded the stem with a medium and a fine grit sanding sponge to remove the scratches left behind by the 220 grit sandpaper. I followed that by sanding with 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 when I had finished and then buffed it with White Diamond.
The vulcanite stem blank I used was an older one and must have come out during the war years. I had read that in those times there was often piece of metal found in the vulcanite of the stem material. This particular stem had a nice bunch of it on the right side of the stem near the shank. It almost looks like the remnants of a stamp on the stem but it is not. It appeared as I sanded the stem down to fit the shank. The photo below shows it about midway between the top and bottom of the stem near the shank junction. The glare of the flash highlights it as well.
With the stem polished and ready and the pipe stained it was time to bend the stem. I used a heat gun to heat up the stem until it was pliable and then bent it over the round handle of a chisel that I had on the workbench. I used the original stem as a pattern to determine how far to bend the stem.
I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil a final time and then buffed the pipe and stem with White Diamond to give it a shine. I then gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and applied the wax to the bowl with a light touch on the buffing wheel. I finished with a buff with a soft flannel buffing wheel. The finished pipe is shown in the pictures below. I think it will last a few more years and yet again deliver a good smoke. In fact I would not be surprised at all if it does not last longer than I will.