Blog by Steve Laug
I have had this broken Acorn shaped bowl in my box of parts for a long time now. I remember breaking it. There were several fills around the shank at that point. The stem was absolutely stuck in the shank and no matter what I did I could not get it out. Heat, cold, alcohol bath or any other means would not work. Finally after I had dunked it in boiling water hoping to loosen things I twisted on the stem and the shank snapped. Then I could see the problem. The stem had an aluminum tenon that had basically begun to disintegrated and had bonded to the shank. It had a long aluminum stinger that extended virtually to the air hole. It was a mess. I clean up the shank and the bowl to remove all of the corroded aluminum and scraped it clean. I was undecided whether to fix it or just part it out so I put it in the box and left it there.
Yesterday I decided to take it out and have a look at it. I put the two parts back together and saw that the fit was actually quite clean. There were just two small places where the briar actually had chipped. I had a polished aluminum tenon that I had extracted from a broken stem and saved for just such a repair. I sanded it and used a file to score the surface of the metal tube so that the glue would have something to grab hold on in the shank. I mixed a batch of two part epoxy and a painted it on the tube with the mixing stick. I liberally coated the tube with epoxy and let it sit until it got a little tacky and then inserted it in the shank end of the break. I inserted the stem in the mortise end so that I did not set the tube too deeply in the shank. Once I had it positioned I let it cure for 30 minutes until the epoxy set and the tube was solidly in place in the shank. I put epoxy on both sides of the exposed briar and then on the other end of the extended tube. I carefully pressed the two parts together and worked to make sure that I had them aligned correctly. The excess epoxy squeezed out and bulged around the enter repair. I used a dental pick and scraped away the excess leaving a smooth top coat of epoxy in the cracked area.
The top surface of the rim was quite damaged and the bowl was out of round. I topped the bowl on a topping board to remove the damage and burn marks that were present on the surface. I sanded it with a sanding block to remove the scratches and smooth out the finish.
I sanded the epoxy on the shank back until it was smooth with 220 grit sandpaper. In the photo below you can still see the slight bulge of epoxy that needed to be removed but since I was planning on rusticating the bowl and shank I did not spend a lot of time sanding that out.
I sanded it a little bit smoother and then used the rustication tool that Chris Chopin made for me to do a deep rustication on the bowl and shank. As I rusticated it I then used the brass bristle wire brush to knock off the loose briar chips. (I collected the briar chips as I plan on using them as Joe suggested in fill repairs to see if I can get them to stay light). I left the rim smooth and would later top it lightly to smooth it out.
When I finished the bowl I wrapped a piece of cello-tape around the end of the shank to make a smooth area that I would later install a band on. The shank end was not straight so I would need to clean it up a bit and then band it to get a clean fit of the stem in the shank.
I slid the band on the shank slightly and then heated it with a lighter until the metal expanded enough to press the band into place. I left about 1/8 of an inch extended to allow for the stem to fit properly in the shank and sit inside the band. I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper until the diameter was a close fit in the band. I slid it in place and took the pictures below to show the look of the pipe at this point. I knew that there was a lot more sanding to do to get a snug fit in the band but I wanted to see a picture to look at the fit a bit removed from the pipe I held in my hands. I purposely chose a longer stem to give it a subtle elegance and length bordering on a mini-churchwarden pipe.
I lightly topped the bowl some more to take care of the burn marks on the right side of the rim top. Then I took a set of close-up photos of the bowl with the band to look at the rustication and figure out where I needed to do some touch up work on it. The shank was where I was the most concerned. I wanted it to match as much as possible with the bowl rustication. I could see that overall it looked good but that the left side of the shank would need some adjusting before it was finished.
I brushed of the dust with a shoe brush and then took out some black aniline stain to give the rustication and undercoat of black. I applied the stain with the dauber and then flamed it with the lighter to set the stain in the bottom of the rustication.
I took the stem back out and worked on it with the 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 between each of the three grits.
Between the 4000 and the 6000 grit pads I buffed it with White Diamond on the wheel and then finished with the higher grit micromesh pads. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond and gave it a coat of carnauba wax. The next two photos show the polished stem in place on the pipe.
I sanded the surface of the rustication to knock off some of the high points and smooth it out slightly using a sanding block. The sanding made the rustication a bit more pebble like in appearance and once I had finished the sanding I gave the bowl a coat of oxblood aniline stain as a top coat. It added some red highlights to the rustication – particularly on the high spots. I then buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the wheel and gave the stem multiple coats of carnauba wax. I polished the band with silver polish and hand buffed it with a soft jeweler’s cloth. The finished pipe is shown below. It has a delicate look that gives it an air of elegance and class. I am looking forward to firing it up and enjoying a bowl soon.