Repairing an Out of Round Bowl

On the recent post I made regarding the Dublin that I cut the shank off of and reworked I neglected to work on the out of round bowl. A friend on one of the online forums sent me a message and asked me why I had not bothered to rework the out of round bowl. My answer to him was that I had done minimal work on it and then turned my attention to the shank. His words niggled at me all day at work and I wrote him and told him I would work on the bowl when I got home this evening. So, I did and decided it was worth a write-up of its own. Many times in refurbishing pipes for myself or others I am face with a bowl that has suffered at the hands of a “mad reamer” who leaves the bowl with all kinds of nicks and dents in the inner rim of the bowl. Often the inner edge is so out of round that it almost appears to be oblong (at best) or ragged and jagged (at worst). Either way if left as it was the ragged inner rim detracts from the overall beauty of the refurbished pipe. I dedicate this post to Chiz, the friend who called me on my skipping of the inner rim. Thanks Chiz, without your urging I don’t know if I would have even given this a second thought.

The first photo below shows the bowl as it was when I received it. The inner rim edges are a mess. On the left side of the photo you can see the major cut and damage to the bowl and on the right side of the photo there is also major damage. The bowl is badly out of round on the inner rim.
I scrubbed off the top of the bowl with acetone on cotton pads. Sometimes this is unnecessary as you will be topping the bowl anyway but I always want to know how deep the cuts and scarring goes into the surface of the rim. This gives me an idea of how much I will have to top the bowl to remove the damage.
I topped the bowl on a hard surface that holds a piece of sandpaper flat. I place the bowl face down on the 220 grit sandpaper and sand it in a clockwise direction. If you were to ask me why clockwise, I would have to say I don’t honestly know! I suppose it is because I am right-handed and it seems that everything I turn goes that direction. The point however, is to keep the bowl flat against the sandpaper. Check it often to see if you have removed enough of the rim surface to deal with the problems.
In the photo above the bowl has been topped but will need further topping to take care of the damage to the outer rim. I am always careful to not change the profile of the bowl when I am doing the topping. It is too easy to remove more briar than is necessary and it is impossible to put it back. I returned the bowl to the topping board and worked to remove more of the damage. You can also see the extent of the damage to the inner edge of the rim clearly. Once I had it finished, I sanded it with medium and fine grit sanding blocks and then with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches.

I stained the bowl with an aniline stain to highlight the great grain patterns on this particular block of briar and buffed it with red Tripoli to remove some of the black stain. I sanded and resanded with multiple grits of sandpaper, sanding blocks, and micromesh sanding pads to get a clean smooth finish on the rim. In the photo below you will still note the out of round bowl. I did minimal work in smoothing out the roughness but did not address the problem of the out of round bowl.
I sanded the bowl with a small folded piece of sandpaper to even out the edge a bit more. I still did not address the major issue. I think at one level I was avoiding it. There is nothing that bugs me more than this kind of careless reaming that leaves a nice pipe in such a state. I have seen this in high-end pipes to Dr. Grabows and everywhere in between. The careless wielding of a reamer or knife knows no economic bounds.
At this point in the process I buffed the pipe, gave it several coats of wax and set it aside. I posted it on the blog and on a pipe forum. That is the pipe as it was when Chiz saw the finished pipe and asked his “immortal question” WHY.
When I got home from work today, with that WHY ringing in my ears I sat down at my work table and used a folded piece of 220 grit sandpaper to work on the inner rim of the bowl. I proceeded carefully so as not to damage the finish on the rim itself. This would sure have been easier had I done it before I refinished the bowl! I sanded the inner edge of the rim to minimize the damage and give the bowl a slight bevel on the edge. The next photo shows the first step in the sanding process. Already the bowl is beginning to take a better shape.
I continued to work on the inner edge with the folded piece of sand paper (approximately 1inch square). I wanted to not only smooth out the edges but I wanted to also bevel the inner edge to a point where the damage blended into the flow of the circle. This involved working the edge to get the distance between the inner and out diameter of the bowl the same/or close to the same the entire way around the bowl. The next three photos show the progressive reshaping of the inner rim. By the third photo the rim is almost finished.


I finished the sanding with a small square of medium and fine grit sanding sponge to remove scratch marks on the bevel and get it ready for a buff. I did not intend to stain the inner rim at this point merely smooth it out.

I took the pipe to the buffer and buffed it with White Diamond. I then polished it with carnauba wax to bring up the shine and give it some protection. The next two photos show the finished rim.


9 thoughts on “Repairing an Out of Round Bowl

  1. reserectedpipes

    Hey Steve, I will echo some of the others in saying Great Work! I have one that a knife wielding assassin looks to have killed and now after seeing how great a job you did and how simply you describe how, I am encouraged to try to fix it.

  2. upshallfan

    All of your work is eye popping, but that is one of your most impressive jobs. That top and bevel looks factory. “The careless wielding of a reamer or knife knows no economic bounds.” A more accurate line may not have been written! Just put down the reamer and step away from the pipe!

    1. rebornpipes Post author

      Thanks Al. That one took a bit of work on the rim to get it looking that way. It also needed to have a chunk of the shank cut off to remove damage. In many ways it is now a new pipe

  3. Chiz Szymanski (@redchiz)

    Wow, all I did was ask a simple little question!! Seriously Steve, you have put the icing on the cake now and I am thrilled that you saw fit to dedicate this post to me, I am glad of my little nag and I hope you are too. 🙂

  4. Rick

    Steve, This got me to thinking have you ever done an oblong bowl? I don’t own any but I have seen a few of them and often wondered how to ream them with anything but a knife as most tools are round.

    1. rebornpipes Post author

      Rick I have repaired a few and use the smallest head on my pipnet reamer. It is round but I have found that works well. I start in the centre and work to each side. I clean up carefully with a knife.

  5. Dave Cooley

    Great job Steve….on the complete project. I have several “estate” pipes that came to me with bowls out of round. I have been reluctant to try to improve the appearance of these bowls. think I will give it a try. Thanks for sharing your techniques with us.


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