Blog by Steve Laug
When I saw this old horn stem pipe on Ebay UK I immediately put in a bid and I won the pipe. It had a great striated horn stem that had lots of deep colours. The area in behind the button on the top and the bottom of the stem was really damage with large chunks of horn missing. On the underside of the stem there was a dark red stain in the striations of the horn near the button. The stem has a metal push tenon with a twisted stinger apparatus screwed into the end of the tenon. The metal ring between the shank and the stem was attached to the stem. The stem had a faint crown stamped in the horn. The bowl had a thick cake and the rim was heavily covered with lava that flowed over from the bowl. The underside of the bowl had a half-dozen fills in it that were shrunken and filled with white putty. The stamping on the shank said Windsor in a script with a flouring line underneath. Stamped under that was De Luxe. On the underside of the shank next to the stem it was stamped 13106. I have no clue as to the provenance of the pipe – WMTP says that there are several makers in England that made the brand. All have stamping that is slightly different. The finish on the bowl looked to be in decent shape under the grime and build up on the sides of the bowl. (Anyone have any ideas on the maker let me know).
I took close up photos of the stem to give an idea of the damage that I would be working with on this pipe. On both sides of the stem there was serious damage in the form of missing chunks of horn. These chunks were missing in the sharp edge of the button and in the surface of the horn itself. The first and second photos show the top and bottom sides of the stem. In the second photo below there is a dark line at the bottom edge of the stem next to the button – that is the red mark that was in the surface of the horn. The third photo below shows the profile of the stem and clearly shows the missing chunks in the horn.
The close up photo of the rim below shows the overflow of lava on the surface that would need to be removed to assess damage to the bowl and rim. The twisted aluminum stinger apparatus was hefty and at first glance seemed to be stuck in the tenon. I tried to turn it and pull it and it would not budge. I would need to heat it to see if I could loosen the tars that bound it to the tenon.
I decided to work on the stem first. I enjoy working on and repairing horn stems. I find great satisfaction in bringing them back to life and bringing out the rich glow that come from a polished piece of horn. In this case I sanded out the damaged areas with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth the edges of the holes and to clean up the debris. I wiped it down with a cotton pad and alcohol to clean off all the debris. I decided to add a little colour to the horn before filling in the hole so that the darker striation would continue to the button. I used a black permanent marker to colour in a stripe from the place it ended on the undamaged portion back to the button. I filled in the damaged areas on the surface of the stem and on the button with clear super glue. The area on the underside where the red spot was cleaned up a bit but the red bled through. I added multiple coats of the glue to build up the areas. I overfilled them so that I had material to work with in reshaping the button and the stem surface.
Once the glue dried I used a needle file and a coarse sanding stick to recut the edge of the button and clean up the top face of the button. I wanted a clean defined area that matched the undamaged part. I sanded the entire stem, carefully avoiding the area of the stamping with 220 grit sandpaper to blend the repair into the surface of the stem and to shape the button. I heated the metal tenon with a lighter and was able to unscrew the stinger from the end. I worked on the shape of the button and the flow into the button with sandpaper and sanding sticks. The shiny areas in the photo below next to the button are the patches of superglue. Much polishing still remains to be done at this point but the surface is smooth to the touch.
I scrubbed the rim with alcohol and cotton pads to remove the tars. It was very hard so I also used a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad. I was able to get most of the build up off the rim. There was some darkening that I would need to sand with a more aggressive grit of sandpaper. I scrubbed the exterior of the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads as well to remove the grime and old finish.With the basic work done on the exterior I cleaned out the shank and the airway in the stem. I also scrubbed out the inside of the bowl with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners.
I put the pipe back together to get a look at how things were coming along. I wanted to see what the repaired stem looked like. In the photos below you can see the new look of the stem from all angles. I am pleased with the overall repair of the stem.
I took the stem off the pipe and worked on it with the micromesh sanding pads – wet sanding with 1500-2400 grit pads and dry sanding with 3200-12000 grit pads. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil between each pad as I have found when working with horn that the oil gives it a better bite into the material and helps raise the shine.
With the stem done I turned to the finish on the bowl. I used a dental pick to remove the putty fills from the bottom of the bowl and shank. I wiped the bottom of the bowl down with alcohol and then packed briar dust into the holes where I had removed the putty. Once the dust was packed in I put a drop of clear super glue on top of the dust and then packed it down with the pick. I added more briar dust to top up the fill.
When the patches had dried I sanded them with 220 grit sandpaper to remove the excess material and blend the surface of the patch into the bowl surface. I heated the briar and then stained it with a medium brown aniline stain. I flamed the stain to set it in the briar. I buffed the bowl with Blue Diamond on the wheel and then gave it several coats of carnauba wax to give it a shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth.
I pushed the stem back in place and gave the entire pipe a final coat of wax and then buffed it with a clean flannel buff. I finished by buffing it by hand with the cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. It is a beautiful pipe and the horn just shines. I am looking forward to enjoying it in the days ahead. What would you call this shape? Any ideas?