Daily Archives: April 3, 2014

Crafting a Bamboo Shank Briar Mini Churchwarden


Blog by Steve Laug

I had all the parts to do a bit of an experiment. I had a broken shank briar pipe, a long piece of black bamboo and an assortment of stems to choose from to see if I could connect all the pieces and make a workable smoking pipe. Putting together the pieces is reminds me of playing with my old Erector Set when I was a kid. The only limit to what can be put together is your imagination. The bowl came to me with two large gashes in the shank. They were both quite deep and both had been repaired by fills. There was a metal threaded mortise in the shank for a threaded tenon. While I was cleaning up the bowl the shank fell off in my hands. I put it in the cupboard as I expected I could scavenge some briar for repairing burn outs in the future. It sat there for more than a week before I began to wonder if I couldn’t do something with it. I went through my parts drawer and found the piece of black bamboo that had been sitting for quite a few years waiting for the right moment. I brought the bowl out and put the two pieces side by side and kind of liked what I saw. The end product would be a four knuckle bamboo mini Churchwarden pipe. It would be extremely lightweight and might actually end up looking quite nice. Now it was time to start working.
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I drilled out the inside of the bamboo with an 11/64 inch drill bit. I then drilled out the end that would meet the bowl with a ¼ inch and then a 3/8 inch bit so that I could use a metal tenon I had saved from a previous pipe. Once the drilling was done the tenon fit the newly drilled bamboo mortise very well. I faced the end of the broken shank so that the bamboo would fit against it smoothly.
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The metal tenon also fit in the shank of the bowl well. The length was perfect as it fit against the airway in the end of the shank next to the bowl bottom. There was no gap between the two so the smoked would flow smoothly down the shank of the pipe. I cleaned out the bamboo airway with pipe cleaners and isopropyl alcohol and then put the pipe together and checked the draw. It was open and was an effortless draw.
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I repaired the fill on the side of the shank as it was not even with the surface of the shank. I used a superglue and briar dust patch on it. Some might wonder why I did not cut back the shank and eliminate the damaged area. I chose not to do that as I wanted the shank to have some length to it in contrast to the long bamboo section. I also planned on rusticating the entire bowl so the damage would be covered. The insert of the metal tenon would stabilize the area as well and the shank repair would be solid.
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I took the bamboo shank off the bowl and sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the finish. I repaired several of the gouges on the bowl surface with superglue and briar dust. I wanted a smooth canvas to work on when I rusticated the bowl. I then sanded the bowl with a medium grit sanding sponge. The top of the bowl had a slight buildup of tars so I cleaned that with the medium and fine grit sanding sponge. I wiped down the bowl with acetone on cotton pads. I sanded the knuckles on the bamboo to remove the fibers that were still attached and to smooth out the nodules. More work would need to be done on the shank but at least at this point it would be smooth in my hand while I worked on the bowl.
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I set the bowl aside and went through my can of stems to find a nice saddle bit that would look good proportionally with the pipe. I drilled out the stem end of the bamboo with a ¼ inch bit to serve as a mortise for the stem. I turned the tenon on a PIMO tenon turning tool and then hand sanded it. I pushed the stem in place and starting sanding the saddle portion of the stem to get the diameter of the stem and shank to match. I mixed some two part epoxy and glued the metal tenon in place in the bamboo. When it was dry I put the pipe together. I did not epoxy the bowl to the shank at this point as I wanted to be able to remove it work on the rustication. The next three photos show the pipe with all parts in place.
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I used a Dremel with a cone shape cutting head to pre-rusticate the shank and then followed that up with the modified Philips screwdriver. I rusticated the briar shank with it attached to the bamboo so that I could rusticate it up to the joint of the two shank materials. Once I had the shank finished I removed the bowl and worked on it with the Philips screwdriver. I find it easier to manipulate the bowl when it is not attached to the shank. When the bowl was completely rusticated I used a brass bristle wire brush to knock of the rough edges and give the bowl the texture that I wanted. I left the rim smooth to contrast with the finish on the bowl.
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I put the pipe back together to have a look at the finished rustication and the contrast with the finish on the bamboo. I liked the overall look of the pipe at this stage. I did a bit more rustication on the bowl and shank and wire brushed them until I was happy with the end result.
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At this point I was ready to attach the shank to the bowl permanently. I scored the metal shank to give the surface something to bond with in the briar shank. I mixed the two part epoxy and applied it to the metal shank with a dental pick. I pressed the two parts together and used the dental pick to trim off the excess glue and wiped it down with a soft cloth. I clamped the parts together while the epoxy set.
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While the glue was drying I worked on the stem to taper it to fit the diameter of the bamboo shank. I sanded it with a Dremel to take off the majority of the excess vulcanite and then hand sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper. Once the epoxy had set, late last evening I inserted the stem and took the photos below.
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This morning I got up early and stained the bowl with a black aniline stain. My plan is to use the black stain as an undercoat on the bowl. Once the pipe is dry I will buff it with red Tripoli to remove the black from the high spots on the rustication and then stain the bowl with a brown topcoat to give it depth and contrast.
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I buffed the bowl with the Tripoli and then used isopropyl alcohol on cotton pads to dab off the stain on the high spots. The finish is rough so to scrub it with the pads leaves behind a lot of cotton bits. I sanded the surface of the bowl with a fine grit sanding sponge to remove more of the black stain from the high spots and to soften the rustication. I stained the bowl and shank with a coat of walnut stain to give some depth and highlights to the bowl. I had asked online how to finish bamboo and received a step by step response from James of JSEC pipes. He said to stabilize the cracks in the bamboo with superglue and then to sand the bamboo with 600 grit wet dry sandpaper and follow that with 1500 grit sandpaper. I followed that process to the letter. The change in the surface of the bamboo was noticeable. It was smooth and had a developing patina on the surface. I then took the next steps in the process and rubbed the shank down with Danish Oil. James said the he generally gave multiple coats of Danish Oil over several days. The photo below was taken after the bowl had been stained with the walnut and the shank sanded as described above. It also shows the first coat of Danish Oil on the stem. After about one hour the oil had dried to a matte finish on the bamboo.
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While the Danish Oil was drying on the bamboo I worked on the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to reduce the diameter of the saddle to match the shank diameter. I then used a medium grit sanding sponge and 600 grit sandpaper. I then sanded the stem with my usual array of micromesh sanding pads. 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 let it soak into the vulcanite.
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When the bamboo had dried I buffed it with White Diamond on the buffing wheel. I buffed bowl and stem as well. I took the next series of four photos before I gave the bamboo a second coat of the Danish Oil. The pipe is beginning to look finished. I like the look of the black bamboo with this treatment – there is a rich patina beginning to show up on the shank now.
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I gave it a second and third coat of Danish Oil and then buffed the bamboo with White Diamond. I gave the stem and the bowl a light buff as well. The bamboo is looking really nice. I like the developing patina that is coming from the finishing. I gave the shank and stem multiple coats of carnauba wax and then buffed to a shine with a clean flannel buff. The finished pipe is picture below. This weekend I hope to take it on its inaugural smoke!
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