Mixing and using a batch of pipe mud

Blog by Steve Laug

Over the years I have used a lot of pipe mud to build up the bottom of a bowl on an over reamed pipe or an airway that entered the bowl too high. I have also used it to protect a briar plug on repaired bowl and on the sides of a bowl where there was damage. It hardens and provides a protective coat until a cake is built up. In the case of a recent bowl that I restored I noticed that the side of the bowl had a deep gouge in it. I picked and probed it with a dental pick to determine if it was a burn out in the making and decided that the briar was stable and not charred in the damaged area. It looked to have been gouged with a knife of with an overzealous reaming that hit a flaw in the briar and expanded it. I reamed out the bowl to take the cake back to bare wood and then cleaned the surface of the briar with a pipe cleaner and isopropyl alcohol. Once it was clean and the surface of the damaged area was free of debris I set the pipe aside to dry. I took a cigar out of my humidor and retired to the porch to smoke it and collect the ash for the repair that I had in mind.Willard13 I collect the cigar ash in a shot glass that I picked up somewhere along the way. I find that it is perfect for mixing a batch of pipe mud. I crush the ash with the flat end of a pipe nail to make sure that there are no chunks of unburned tobacco in it and that I have a fine grey dust.Willard14 I fill a second shot glass half full of water to mix with the ash. I have used an ear syringe and even a teaspoon to put the water in the second glass. The tools for the project are very minimal and are shown in the next photo. I use a pipe nail both the flat end and the spoon end for mixing the mud and also for packing or tamping it in place in the bowl. I use a folded pipe cleaner to paint the surface of the bowl with the mud.Willard15 In this case I dribbled the water slowly into the shot glass with the ash and mixed it with the pipe nail. I added extra water with the pipe cleaner.Willard16 When I had the ash and water mixed to the consistency of a thick paste I paint it on the wall of the bowl and work it into the gouge in the side of the bowl. It takes multiple applications to build it up. I paint it on with the pipe cleaner and then tamp it in place with the spoon end of the pipe nail. I repeat the process until the side of the bowl is smooth and the gouge is even with the bowl sides.Willard17

Willard18 I let the initial application of pipe mud dry for thirty minutes and periodically checked the bowl to see if the mud is showing signs of shrinkage. If it had shrunken at all (which in this case it had) I refilled the area with more pipe mud using the pipe cleaner and then tamped it into place again. I repeated this process as often as necessary until the surface dried smooth. When it dries the repair is grey in colour and quite hard.Willard19 The repair works very well. It provides a base for the cake to build on. I am careful when wiping out the bowl and don’t ream until there is a solid cake formed over the repair. I have smoked pipes repaired like this for several years and never had the mud fall out of the repaired area before the cake builds over it. With initial care this bowl will smoke well for many years to come. Anyone else experimented with pipe mud for this type of repair? Let us know.

14 thoughts on “Mixing and using a batch of pipe mud

  1. Jason Silver

    I wonder why the type of ash matters at all? Isn’t all ash essentially the same- carbon? I’m thinking of trying to use pellet stove ash, which is very fine (and of which I have an abundance).

  2. Michael P Nilsen

    Pipe Mud Formula Validation
    I wanted to quantify the amount of cigar, ash and water to minimize the amounts needed to perform a repair.
    I used 4 inches of a *50 ring gauge cigar for the ash source. I found that exactly 1 gram of ash was produced using a “Macanudo Robusto” cigar. I mixed the ash with 0.5 mls or 0.5 grams of filtered water, to form a firm paste. Using a dental scoop I placed a dollop of the pipe mud in the center of the bowl and positioned a bamboo skewer through the draft hole flush to the tobacco chamber. using the dental scoop, I filled and smoothed the spider cracks in the chamber of a “Fischer Margate” pipe. After smoothing out the mud, I moistened my index finger and smoothed out the mud till it was even and I removed the bamboo skewer. After an hour, for my application, I found that the shrinkage was very minimal and that the repair was very hard to the touch and satisfactory. After 2 or more days I will be applying a coating of sour cream and charcoal to the chamber to finalize the repair.
    Finally, the pipe mud produced from the methods and materials that I used were quantity sufficient and I used all that was produced for this type of repair.
    *”The ring gauge of a cigar goes hand-in-hand with its length since size drives a key component of style, construction, and burning experience. For illustration purposes, a ‘ring’ is equivalent to 1/64 of an inch in diameter – a 50-ring cigar equals 50/64 of an inch (CIGARS INTERNATIONAL)”.

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  5. Anthony

    This is great information, Steve. Thanks for getting it out there.
    Since I’m not much of a cigar smoker, I use pure burley pipe ash instead of cigar ash for mud. Only the fine, white stuff from the top two-thirds of the bowl. It works well. I keep some on hand in a small, lidded cup. It’s neutral enough that it doesn’t even smell when I pop the top after it’s been sitting on the shelf for a couple of weeks.
    Also, I’m a big fan of the pumice, charcoal, and sodium silicate “pipe tar” mix that I’ve documented here before. I like to use that for deep or intensive repairs.

    1. Al

      Anthony, I’m interested in the pipe tar of which you speak. Could you please post a link?

      Thanks in advance.

        1. Al

          Many thanks, Anthony. Great job on those two pipes. I really like your pipe tar and will use that on bowl repairs. Also, I own a Suffolk too, that I now know more about than I could find on my own. In the short time since subscribing I’ve learned so much.

          1. Anthony

            I can only take credit for the “pipe tar” name, not the recipe. I stole the recipe from Trever Talbert.

  6. Andrew

    Good information Steve. It’s always nice to read an article about how to do a basic repair. Since new people are constantly picking up this hobby, we can never assume that something like this is common knowledge.

  7. Al

    Pipe mud is great for repairs of hollow spots in the bowl, as well as using it to build up the bottom when the draft hole is too high. Great stuff. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. bwithers55

      I recently acquired a “keeper” with an air hole that is too high. I need to look for any old cigars I have around and make some ash! That’s a good idea for the weekend coming up.


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