Fitting a Bowl to an Old Bakelite Base and Stem

Blog by Steve Laug

When I was in Idaho recently I ended up finding a lot of pipes and parts that I knew would come in handy in the months ahead. One of the parts I found was a no name Bakelite stem and base that was threaded for a bowl. There was no bowl to be found for it. The base is dark grey Bakelite and the stem is red Bakelite (maybe Redmanol). The threaded tenon was also Bakelite which surprised me. It was threaded to fit into the stem and into the shank which made adjusting the fit really simple. A turn of the tenon into the shank or into the stem is all it took to align the stem with the shank. I have always liked the looks of these old timers so whenever I find one I buy it. I figured somewhere along the way I would find a bowl for it. If not I could at least make a pressure fit bowl for it. I have a long weekend ahead of me with some time off so I decided to fiddle with it. I also had a plastic Falcon style stem that I decided would be scrap except for the bowl. The bowl is not briar but rather Maplewood I believe. It is hard and barely smoked so it would be a good candidate for a pressure fit bowl for the Bakelite pipe.Bakelite1 The bowl from the plastic Falcon style donor pipe had a threaded bowl bottom that was larger than the base of the Bakelite pipe. It would take some reworking to make it work. The bowl also had a thick varnish coat that was shiny and plastic looking like the base. That finish would have to go before it fit the look of the pipe I was working on.Bakelite2

Bakelite3 I reduced the diameter of the bowl bottom and removed the threads with a Dremel and sanding drum. I held the Dremel against the base and let it go around the base of the bowl with even pressure so that I could keep the base round. It took quite a few turns of the drum before I was able to get close to a fit. I finished by sanding the base of the bowl with a wood rasp to make sure that it sat flat against the Bakelite base and would also press into the threaded base.Bakelite4

Bakelite5 I pressed the bowl into place in the base and took the next two photos below. I then threaded the stem on the base and took a few more photos to give me a good idea of what the pipe would look like once I finished with the fit.Bakelite6




Bakelite10 I removed the bowl from the base and wiped it down with acetone on a cotton pad to remove the finish. I wanted a natural finish on the bowl so I removed the varnish coat and took of the plastic looking shine.Bakelite11

Bakelite12 I wet sanded the Bakelite stem with micromesh pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-4000 grit pads and finished sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil after sanding with each set of three pads. I also rubbed down the base with Obsidian Oil.Bakelite13


Bakelite15 I rubbed down the bowl with a light coat of Olive oil and let it dry into the wood. I gave the stem and the bowl a light had buff with a microfibre cloth and then took the following photos.Bakelite16



Bakelite19 I buffed the pipe and bowl with Blue Diamond on the wheel and then give it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean flannel buff to give it a matte finish shine. I then hand buffed it with the microfibre cloth to give depth to the wood. The finished pipe is shown below. It is ready for its inaugural smoke.Bakelite20






2 thoughts on “Fitting a Bowl to an Old Bakelite Base and Stem

  1. Anthony

    Nice work, Steve! That is a cool and interesting pipe! Great reuse of that old bowl too.I kind of wish there were more Bakelite stems these days. Nothing that I’ve seen quite matches the depth of color with the exception of amber.


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