Repairing a Hole in a Briar Bird Pipe Stem

Blog by Steve Laug

Last evening a fellow pipeman stopped by with a few pipes for me to look at and see if I wanted to do the work on them. Several of them were in need of general clean up. But two of them had a fairly large hole in the surface of the stem about ½ inch from the button. The first of them was a little Briar Bird Nosewarmer with an amber coloured acrylic stem. This hole was the smaller of the two. I figured I could repair it for him. He also wanted me to do a general ream and clean on the pipe as well. The rim had some darkening and some charring on the inner edge that would need to be addressed.

I sanded around the hole with 220 grit sandpaper. I cleaned the surface of the acrylic with a cotton pad and a little alcohol.Theo1 I reamed the pipe with a PipNet reamer to take the cake back to almost nothing so that I could address the issues with the inner edge of the rim on the back side.Theo2


Theo4 I do not have any amber cyanoacrylate glue so I used clear one instead. I greased two pipe cleaners with Vaseline and inserted them in the airway from each end as the airway was quite large. I then dripped the glue on the hole in several layers and coats to build it up and effectively patch the hole. I have found that the glue has an interesting effect on the acrylic when it is first added to the surface. The glue bubbles and hisses and there is a small puff of smoke/steam. When it dries it is a hard white surface. It does not seem to damage the stem as once it is sanded off it is unnoticeable. But it is something that gives you a little bit of a scare the first time it happens.Theo5 Once the glue patch had dried the work of sanding could begin in earnest. The glue dries very hard on the acrylic. It seems to be much harder than with vulcanite. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to flatten the patch and begin smoothing it out with the surface of the stem.Theo6

Theo7 Once I had flattened the patch and blended it with the 220 grit sandpaper I moved on to sand it with a medium and then a fine grit sanding sponge. When I had finished with the sanding sponges the repair looked quite good as can be seen in the next two photos below.Theo8

Theo9 I went on to polish the stem and the patch with micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12,000 grit pads.Theo10


Theo12 The photo below shows a close-up of the repair to the stem surface. While it is not amber it is a hard clear patch that picks up some of the colour from the airway below.Theo13 When I finished I buffed it with Blue Diamond plastic polish on the buffing wheel to raise the shine and polish it.Theo14 I scrubbed the rim with Magic Eraser to clean up as much of the darkening as possible. I also beveled the inner edge of the rim to minimize the damage there. I used 220 grit sandpaper folded and held at an angle to do the beveling and then smoothed out the sanding with a micromesh pad.Theo15 The finished pipe is shown below. I buffed it lightly with carnauba to give it a shine and then buffed it with a clean, soft flannel pad to polish it. The patch on the stem, while not exactly beautiful, effectively solves the issue with the hole in the stem surface. While I was at it I used a needle file to clean up the slot in the end of the button to give it more of a Y taper.Theo16




3 thoughts on “Repairing a Hole in a Briar Bird Pipe Stem

    1. rebornpipes Post author

      That is a good idea on the yellow sharpie. I also am going to order some amber super glue from Stewart MacDonald. I need to order some more black and also micromesh pads so I will add that to the order as well.

  1. upshallfan

    Thanks for the heads up on the effect of the glue on an acrylic stem, that would have given me some heart palpatations, now I know.


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