Blog by Steve Laug
Over the past six or seven months I have picked this pipe up and looked it over at the small antique shop I visit regularly. Every time I put it back down and leave it there. There was really nothing redeeming about the shape with its one thin side and the odd shank that was not quite round. The stem was just plain ugly and unfinished. It was as if the maker or owner just turned a blank to fit the mortise and flared it backwards to avoid having to deal with a smooth fit to the shank as it was everything but flat and round. The sides of the stem still showed file marks and the diameter was markedly different than that of the shank. All in all it was one that I could do without that is for sure.
Then this past weekend I was in the shop again. I picked it up and looked at it once more. I don’t know if my mood was different or I was on the adrenaline high of finding the old Zeus at the shop before or what but this time I saw some possibilities in the pipe. I paid the $8 cash and the pipe was mine. Now what would I do with it?
When I got home I took some photos and weighed my options over Saturday evening and Sunday. I thought about making a freehand style stem for the pipe and ditching the old one. I thought about cleaning up and reshaping the old stem. I thought about facing off the shank end and giving it a more classic look. I took the stem off and looked at the shape of the shank, the shape of the shank end and tried to visualize it with a classic look. As you can guess by this point if you know my likes I went for the classic look.
I took a couple of close-up photos of the rim and the shank end to give an idea of how the bowl and shank were not round or close to it. The first photo of the dirty rim of the bowl shows the odd shape it was in. The right side of the bowl wrapping about half way around both the back and the front had a nice thick, even width while the left side tapered in from the thickness and roundness of the right, back and front to a thinner width. Besides that it also seemed to be a bit oval on the back and front but after measuring it I could see that it was an illusion. The second photo shows the shank end. It is a bit hard to see but the shank end was crowned and rounded over but inconsistently. The shank itself had the same problem as the bowl – it too was not round but was thicker on the left side than on the right; just the opposite of the bowl. This little pipe was going to be a challenge to make look correct.
I decided to face the end of the shank and remove the uneven crown and to flatten it to fit a flush stem. I used the topping board and carefully pressed the end of the shank into the sandpaper. I had to make sure that I held it straight vertically while sanding so that I did not slant the end of the shank and make things worse. I worked it against the 220 grit sandpaper until it was smooth and the crown was gone. I then used a medium grit sanding block to make sure the shank end was flat and even. I had an old Georg Jensen stem that fit on the right side of the shank perfectly. The left side and the bottom and top on that same side were off. I tried a saddle stem I had as well. No matter which stem I use the shape of the shank made a perfect fit impossible. The good news was that the flush stem fit snugly in the mortise and flat against the end of the shank. Now I would need to make adjustments to the shank diameter without losing the nice sandblast finish. I went through my bands and found one that would fit both the shank and the stem once it was in place. I used my Dremel and sanding drum to take down and round out the shank end so that the band would sit properly. I wanted to make the adjustments to the shank before the band so that once it was in place the stem would fit without adjusting the roundness of the stem to match the out of round shank. It took some work to round out the shank but the Dremel made short work of the process. I was able to put the band loosely on the shank to get an idea of the overall look of the pipe with the band. It appeared to me that it would work well.
I decided to heat the band with a lighter rather than set my heat gun to do the simple heat up of the band. Once I heated it I pressed it into place on the shank. The metal expanded slightly with the heat and by pressing the shank end against a flat surface I was able to push the band into place.
Once I had the stained matched, it was time to clean the sandblast finish. I used Murphy’s Oil Soap and a tooth brush to scrub the bowl and shank. I did it after the stain touch up as I figured that the scrub would help blend the stains together. I rinsed the bowl with fresh water avoiding getting it into the shank and the bowl. I dried it off and brought it back to the work table. I cleaned out the shank and the used stem with a few pipe cleaners and alcohol. The pictures below show the pipe at this point in the process. The stem needed some work to clean up the scratches and wear around the button. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and dry sanded it with 3200-12,000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil and then buffed it with Blue Diamond Plastic Polish on the buffing wheel. I gave it a quick coat of carnauba and took it back to the work table.
I gave the bowl and stem a light buff and rubbed the bowl down with a light coat of olive oil. When it dried, I hand buffed the bowl with a shoe brush to raise the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the pictures below. I think I achieved what I set out to do when I started this project. I took a pretty ugly poker with a misfit stem and with work transformed it into a more classic poker look. What do you think? Thanks for looking and giving your opinion on the new look.