Using Charcoal & Cyanoacrylate glue to do a Stem Repair on a Dr. Grabow Starfire Churchwarden


Blog by Joe Mansueto -“JoeMan” (Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum)

Joe sent me the following email and an attached link for the article that follows. He has done some excellent work and I have followed it on Pipe Smokers Forums and also on the Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum. It is a pleasure to be able to post his work here on rebornpipes. Welcome and thank you Joe.

“Steve – I’ve looked in on your blog a number of times. Thanks for posting some really good information, and featuring the work of other guys in the field. One of the things I learned here which I had not done before was the use of Plaster of Paris to mend cracked / broken meer-lined bowls. That was helpful…and I think that was one of your own posts. I’d been looking for a better solution…thanks.”

“I’m not looking to get published so much as I’m happy to help other guys with refurb processes. I learned a LOT of things from others who’ve been at it for many years more than I, and have also developed a few of my own techniques…as I’m sure most of us have! Cleaning out gunk…refitting a stem…rusticating….topping a bowl…staining…refinishing…de-oxidizing stems…repairing chips…etc…these are all things I do on a regular basis. Recently, I took my hand to making pipes, and made 2 of them during a stay-home vacation…came out pretty good! But, I see myself primarily as a refurb guy…I really enjoy making an old broken-down relic of a pipe gleam again. If I were to count, I suppose I’ve refurbished most of a thousand pipes over the last 4 years. No…I don’t have 1,000 pipes…most have gone to others by way of sale, trade or gift. I suppose I do have 200 pipes in my collection however.”

“One of the things that most refurb guys seem to struggle with most is chewed / eaten stems. Those nasty tooth indentations…or worse yet…missing chunks from the button. I’ve heard of guys using super-glue, heat, JB Weld, vulcanite dust & glue, and other mad-scientist approaches. There are many good approaches to repairing a stem. The most effective approach I’ve personally found is Cyanoacrylate and activated charcoal. Ed James (AKA Ozark Southpaw online) is just about the best talent I’ve seen in all-things pipes. He too learned from others over many years, but what an innovator this gentleman is. I visited his shop when I was on the road over 2 years ago, and I’ve learned a lot from him. One of his own experiments a few years ago was mixing CA with activated charcoal and comparing the result with other repairs. It was a great discovery, and at the time he did it and shared it on the forum, I’d not seen anyone else doing it that way. I’m not saying it’s the ‘best method’…because you know how some pipe guys can get into struggles over their method being best…but I’ve personally not seen anything more successful. Ed James has not done too many of these CA/charcoal repairs himself…but once he discovered, tested and shared it, I took it and ran with it. Do with this info as you please or nothing at all…but here is one example of the process…”

“At the time of that Starfire churchwarden refurb, I had done a couple hundred stem repairs. Since the time of that refurb, I’ve surely done a couple hundred more, and have tweaked my own process here and there. I’ve done some of these repairs on pipes for myself, but more for pipes which I’ve then sold, as well as others who bring them to me. This one served as a good example, since it was one of the worst cases that I documented. Most of those I’ve done, I’ve not documented at all.” – Joe Mansueto “JoeMan” (Dr. Grabow Collectors Forum)

Here is Joe’s blog:

Just recently got this pipe from Sam (DG forum name SamCoffeeMan – hasn’t been here in a while) along with the Grabow Unique. When I expressed interest in it…Sam said that he’d “cut off 1/2” of the stem, and file out a new button. I said…nnnooooo…leave it original and I’ll fix it.

I am sure the stem is original to the pipe. The stem is identical to the stem on my Linkman Grabow 6033, it is perfectly registered, and the wire carving is that of an ‘early’ Starfire, as you’ll see below. That said, this was surely among the last of the churchwardens to leave the Grabow factory.
Joe1 The previous owner should have had a sandwich instead of smoking this pipe…Joe2

Joe3 This can be fixed!

Bleach soak first, then an isopropyl alcohol scrub of the surgery site to assure the CA will stick best.

The form I used is 2 thicknesses of cereal box cardboard, cut to the shape of the tapered slot opening, wrapped in shiny packing tape. Since both sides of the button were nearly identically eaten, there was nothing to keep the form properly seated. So, I taped the form to a pipe cleaner and pulled it into place as tight as I could, then centered it top to bottom…if that makes sense.Joe4 CA mixed with activated charcoal, applied in multiple layers…Joe6

Joe7 Using a needle file to shape between layers…Joe7 Just about done shaping, ready for multiple-stage wet sanding…Joe8 Buffing…done.Joe9

Joe10 Some of you will know which shape number this medium billiard would be. Bowl height is nearly 1 3/4″, ID is 3/4. Overall length is 11 3/4″.Joe11 This is an older Starfire for sure. It’s got the very deep wire carving which is continuous over the entire pipe as I believe Tom pointed out about Belvedere.Joe12

Joe13 This was originally posted on The Dr. Grabows Collectors Forum. Here is the link: http://drgrabows.myfreeforum.org/sutra87253.php#87253

4 thoughts on “Using Charcoal & Cyanoacrylate glue to do a Stem Repair on a Dr. Grabow Starfire Churchwarden

  1. Lone Star Briar Works

    Joe, are you using Gorilla Glue? I haven’t done a stem repair in awhile, I seem to remember having trouble with the glue mixture setting up too quickly. What kind of glue/charcoal ratio do you use?

    Reply
  2. Dave

    Joe, that is the worst damaged stem I have ever seen repaired without cutting off the damaged area, and forming a new button. I would not have thought it possible with out your pictures. The final results are nothing short of fantastic. Thank you for sharing this with us. Thanks Steve, for bringing us this refurbish.

    Reply
  3. Al

    That is a great repair. It is good to see exactly how it is done. I had purchased some black rubberized cyanoacrylate glue on eBay. One thin and one gel. I used the thin one to glue a new white spot in a Dunhill stem. Worked very well. I think for stem rebuilding adding the charcoal makes for more of a paste, which seems better to build up a missing part.

    Thanks for the article. I’m sure lots of us learned from it.

    Reply

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