Blog by Steve Laug
Troy Wilburn and I have been corresponding for a few months now about pipe restoring and the fun of the hobby. He has posted some of his work here so he is no stranger to pipe restoration. I had not heard from him for a while so I sent him and email to check on him. I know he loves the older Yello Bole pipes and I wondered if he had worked on any recently. I am including a portion of the email he sent me in response to mine. He wrote:
“Funny thing you have contacted me as I do have a couple of Yello Boles I need tenon repairs on. One is an old favorite of mine that snapped off. I have tried to repair it and it failed. The other is an odd shaped NOS (I can’t find the shape on any KW chart. It’s a large bowl billiard with a short oval shank and short straight stem) pipe that I purchased with a broken tenon already but I can’t get the broken piece out (it’s really stuck!) So it might need to be drilled out and a new tenon made, I don’t know.”
“Tenon repair is something I’m not that experienced on and they are both very nice old KBB YBs and would like nice repairs done on them, so I was thinking about sending them to someone more experienced in those types of repairs. I was gonna ask Ed but I know he is always swamped with projects, so I was thinking about asking you if you would be interested in repairing them for me…”
I replied that I would gladly have a look and them and give them a go if they were something that I could fix. When they arrived last week I unpacked the box that Troy sent. I have to tell you he did a masterful job of packing these old pipes. They were individually wrapped in bubble wrap and then placed in small plastic containers. Then the plastic containers were put in bubble wrap and put in a box. There was no movement or rattle in that package.
When I took the pipes out I could see what Troy was talking about. The little odd shaped NOS Canadian was strange. It had a metal tenon. Upon observation I could see that someone had left the broken tenon in the shank and then made a metal tenon that slipped inside the broken tenon. Deep in the shank was the stinger rattling around free in the airway between the broken tenon and the bowl. The billiard that I chose to work on first was another matter. I think Troy tried to epoxy the stem on the tenon but it did not hold. The face of the stem was spotty with glue. The shank on the pipe was clean but I did not spend too much time checking it out to see if there were cracks or problems. Even though the tenon snapped I just by passed my normal observation and went to work. That was a decision I would regret shortly… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet.
I faced the surface of the stem and smoothed out the broken area on a topping board. I started with a drill bit slightly larger than the airway and worked my way up to a large enough drill bit that I could turn a tap into it to thread it for the new threaded tenon. This has to be done very slowly and carefully to not drill to deeply into the stem or to angle things so that the tenon does not sit straight in the shank once it is in place. The stem had some spots of glue on the surface and some marks around the end where the tenon had snapped off that would need to be addressed once I got to that point. I generally have a few threaded tenons to work with around here. Wouldn’t you know it all of my ¼ inch tenons were gone and all I had left were these large ½ inch ones. It would have to work for this repair. I used a tap to thread the newly drilled stem. I fit the tenon in place and twisted it down until it sat flat against the stem. I then twisted it free and put some glue on the threads and twisted the new tenon into the stem. I cleaned up the excess glue around the junction so that the fit of the tenon was smooth and tight. Once the glue set in place I set up my PIMO Tenon Turning tool on my cordless drill and took down the tenon slowly until I had removed enough of the excess Delrin to get it close to a fit. Because there are no micro adjustments on the tenon turning tool I always get as close as possible with the tool and then use the Dremel and sanding drum and to strip it more and then finish it by hand with sandpaper. I love the way the Delrin spins off the cutter on the tool. Here is the new tenon sitting among the Delrin scraps ready to take to the Dremel and then hand sand. I used the Dremel to take the tenon down some more. I then sanded it by hand until the size was the same as the shank. When I slid it in place the fit was perfect. I was happy to have finished what seemed to be an easy repair. I slipped the stem out of the shank to clean and polish the tenon. When I slid it back in place the sound that makes me cringe was heard. It was just a slight low pop. I removed the stem and could see a small crack had either appeared on the shank with the new tenon in place or the new tenon had made the crack appear. I will never know for sure as I did not check it before. I cleaned off that area of the shank and examined the crack. It was just under ½ long and curved up through the stamping on the shank. I was sick.
I wrote Troy a quick email and told him the situation as it stood – great fitting stem, repaired tenon and now a cracked shank. I asked if it was cracked before or if I had cracked it. He was not sure either. Ah well no matter. I was hoping he would confirm that it was previously cracked but he didn’t know. I asked about banding the shank and he said he would rather not as he did not like bands. But if I had to a thin one would do. The problem was twofold – I did not have a thin band and a thin one would not fix the crack. I suggested that maybe I could do an internal repair and thin down the new tenon to fit inside of the tube that would be used to repair the shank. He said to go for it and see what I could do.
So I did a bit of looking through my parts bin to see if I could find either a piece of Delrin tube that I could drill and fit or a piece of metal that would work for the repair. I found I had a metal tube that would work. I cut off a piece the length of the mortise. I used the Dremel and sanding drum to roughen the surface of the tube and to reduce the diameter slightly. I wanted a good snug fit in the shank but did not want to open the crack or crack it further. I spread the crack slightly and put super glue in it and clamped it until it set.
While it was drying I used the Dremel to reduce the diameter of the tenon until it would fit inside of the metal tube. I figured it would be easier to do that fitting with the tube out of the shank than when it was inserted in the cracked shank. Again I sanded with the Dremel and then finished by hand sanding until the fit was a nice snug fit with the tenon all the way into the tube.
I sanded and smoothed the ends of the tube and made sure that the surface was rough enough to bond to the inside of the mortise. I roughened the walls of the mortise with a dental pick so that it was scored. I wanted to make both surfaces rough enough for the glue to bond to and make the tube secure in the shank. It would have to be a tight fit as I did not want the tube to come out with the stem when Troy took it off the pipe to clean it. I coated the outside of the metal tube with glue and let it get tacky. When it was tacky I pressed into the shank with the sharp end of a pair of needle nose pliers. I pushed it in until it sat against the end of the mortise in the shank. With the tube in place in the shank I still needed to flare the end so that it would fit against the bevel of the mortise end. I probably could have shortened the tube slightly but beveling the end would take care of that. I pressed the end of rounded tip of the needle nose pliers into the end of the tube and worked on the flare. It took some work to mould it to shape. I then use a small round needle nose file to smooth out the flare and match the angle of the bevel. I stained the end of the shank with a stain pencil and also touched up the cracked area on the shank. I will need to polish that to get it to match the shine on the bowl but you can see the fit of the stem against the shank and look of the shank. With the shank repair completed I needed to work on the stem. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the scratches and glue build up that was on the surface of the stem. I sanded it with medium and fine grit sanding sponges. Then it was time to sand it with micromesh sanding pads. Instead of wet sanding I used a little olive oil on the stem and sanded with the micromesh with oil. I did that with 1500-2400 grit pads. I continued with 3600-12,000 grit pads without adding any further oil to the surface of the stem. With these older Yello Bole stem I find that wet sanding does not work well but to sand with oil is perfect and will raise a nice shine. I also am careful about buffing them as they have a pretty low melting point and are easily damaged. This particular stem does not appear to be vulcanite so I was careful.
The next two photos show the shank end. The stain got on the flare of the metal tube and I will need to wipe it out with a bit of alcohol. However you can see the flare of the metal and the briar to take the new tenon and hold the stem tight against the shank. The airway has what appears to be a loose piece of metal on the second photo at the bottom of the shank. I blew out the shank with air and the dust and fibres that were present disappeared.
The next four photos show the finished pipe and stem. The newly fit stem sits nicely against the shank. The repair to the shank is solid and the crack is closed. With the metal insert it should be free from further cracking and the tenon slides in snugly to the mortise.
The next two photos give a close look at the shank/stem junction. It is good and tight. The final photo shows that the new tenon sits tight against the stem and looks like it was when it left the factory – just narrower in diameter to fit in the metal tube.