Daily Archives: January 1, 2016

A Tiny Apple Reborn – new stem and new finish


Blog by Steve Laug

This morning I decided to work on an interesting little pipe that I picked up in an eBay batch from England. All of the bowls in that batch had broken tenons stuck in the shank. All were no name bowls or so worn that the name had long since worn off. This one was the smallest pipe in the batch. The bowl and shank are 2 ½ inches long and 1 ½ inches tall. The bowl is drilled at 5/8 inches and I can insert my little finger. The shank was spliced somewhere along the way and done quite well. It is a smooth splice. I wonder if it was a repair or if it came out that way when briar was scarce during the war. The finish was spotty – varnish was peeling from the bowl and shank. The tenon appears to have had a metal tube in the middle of the vulcanite and both had snapped off when they broke. I have circled this bowl in red in the next three photos. The first shows the batch of pipes that I picked up. The second is an enlargement of the bowl itself and the third photo shows the snapped tenon in the shank.Apple1
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Apple3 The photos above came from the seller. I took the next series of photos before I worked on the pipe this morning. The rough finish is visible in the photos as are the fills on both sides of the bowl. They were shrunken and hard so they would have to be repaired. You can also see the splice in the shank about 2/3 of the way up the shank to the bowl. The bowl had a thick cake that was crumbly and rough. The bowl still was half full of tobacco that had been stuffed into it evidently before the stem broke. The rim had lava overflow and some damage to the inside edge and the top of the rim.Apple4
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apple7 For a stem for this pipe I turned to my stem can and found a long narrow stem that needed a little adjustment to the tenon and the diameter of the stem at the shank before it would fit. I turned the tenon with a Dremel and sanding drum and finished by sanding it by hand.Apple8 The photos below show the stem in the pipe. The diameter of the shank and the diameter of the stem do not match.Apple9 I used the Dremel and sanding drum to reduce the stem diameter to match the diameter of the shank. I always rough in the fit with the Dremel and then fine tune the fit by hand sanding.Apple10 I reamed the bowl with a PipNet pipe reamer and took the cake back to bare wood. I wanted to look at the inside of the bowl and rim to see what needed to be done at those points.Apple11
Apple12 I stripped the finish off the bowl with acetone on cotton pads. With all of the fills and dents in the no name bowl it was another candidate for sanding and refinishing. Looking down the shank with a light it appears that the splice of shank was done with a metal tube in the shank. The bowl and the added shank also appear to be different wood.Apple13 I topped the bowl to remove the rim damaged and to clean up the edges of the rim.Apple14 I tried to pick out the fills on the bowl but they were tight and were rock hard. I cleaned up around them and filled in the shrinkage with clear superglue.Apple15 I sanded the repaired areas and the rest of the bowl and shank with 220 grit sandpaper. I sanded the repairs smooth and followed up by sanding with a fine grit sanding sponge.Apple16
Apple17 I gave the bowl a black under stain to help hide the fills and the splice. They would always show but the dark under stain would blend them into the finish better. I applied the stain and flamed the bowl and repeated the process to get good coverage.Apple18
Apple19 I wiped down the bowl with alcohol and cotton pads to remove the black from the surface of the briar and leave it in the grain patterns.Apple20
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Apple23 I sanded the bowl with a fine grit sanding block and the stem with the fine grit sanding sponge and fit it in the shank to get a feel for the new look. I took the next series of photos to see how the pipe was developing. I liked what I saw. The black stain had done a good job covering the fills and the splice. I used a black permanent marker to fill in some light spots and drew in some grain lines in the bald spots.Apple24
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Apple27 I gave the bowl a top coat of Danish Oil with Cherry stain and then again used the permanent marker to fill blank spots and darken the fills. I wiped the Cherry stain over the bowl several times until the coverage was good and then set the bowl aside to dry.Apple28
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Apple30 While it dried I worked on the stem with micromesh sanding pads. I wet sanded it with 1500-2400 grit pads and gave it a coat of Obsidian Oil. I dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads and gave it another coat of oil. I finished with 6000-12000 grit pads, gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and let it dry.Apple31
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Apple33 I buffed the pipe with Blue Diamond on the wheel and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed it with a clean flannel buff and then by hand with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I like the looks of it with a long thin stem. It is a like a pencil shank Bing with an apple shaped bowl. Thanks for looking.Apple34
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Reshaping and Restemming a no name Oval Opera Pipe


Blog by Steve Laug

I bought a group of pipe bowls on Ebay a while ago and one of them was an oval bowl Opera pipe. The stamping was non-existent, whether worn off by over buffing or never present it was no longer on the shank on either side. It is shown in the photo below marked with a red oval. It is an interesting shape and this one was a normal sized pipe. There was nothing of the typical small size of the pipes like this that I have worked on in the past. The stem was long gone and the broken tenon was stuck in the shank. The finish was rough and had deep dents and nicks all over the bowl. The cake in the bowl was thick and the rim was damaged on the inner edge and had burn marks on the front top and left side. There were two large fills on the bowl; one on the left side shank near the bowl junction and the other on the underside mid-shank.Op1 Op2 I pulled the broken tenon by my usual method. I use a drywall screw and insert it in the airway. I use a screwdriver to turn it into the airway just enough to be tight in the tenon. You need to be careful to not turn it in to far as it will expand the tenon and crack the shank. Once it is in place I use needle nose pliers to wiggle it free of the shank. It usually comes free with little effort. That was true in the case of this tenon.Op3
Op4 I took the next set of photos to show the state of the pipe when I started this project. Note the damaged rim top and inner edge.Op5
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Op8 I went through my can of stems for a donor stem and found a bent saddle stem that I could straighten and fit to this pipe. I turned the tenon with the PIMO tenon turning tool to a close fit and hand sanded it to get a snug fit. The shank was slightly oval and the stem round so I would need to work on the shank to get a good fit.Op9
Op10 I used 220 grit sandpaper to clean up the finish on the bowl and shank. I did preliminary shaping of the rim to clean up the damage at the top. I used a PipNet reamer to ream the bowl. I use the smallest head and work it in the centre of the oval first and then move it to the front and back of the oval to ream those areas. I cleaned up the reamed bowl with a pen knife to get rid of the cake. I needed to take the cake back to bare briar so that I could reshape the inner edge.Op11 I sanded the bowl with 220 grit sandpaper to remove as much of the damage to sides of the bowl as possible. You can see from the photo below the dip in the top edge of the bowl about middle. That is where the burn damage is on that side.Op12 I wiped the bowl down with acetone on cotton pads to remove any remaining finish and to see where I stood in terms of removing damage to the bowl.Op13
Op14 The next photo shows the extent of the damage to the top and inner edge of the rim. You can see the rough cut marks on the inner edge from a previous owners attempt to ream the bowl. You can also see the burn marks on the left and right top and sides of the rim.Op15
Op16 To remove the dips where the burn marks were in the rim top and to remove the damaged briar I decided to top the bowl. I would need to reshape the rim to match the original but I would deal with that later.Op17 I used a Dremel and sanding drum to shape the outside edge of the rim and bowl.Op18
Op19 Op20 I put the stem in place in the shank, aligned it correctly and sanded the shank to clean up the fit. I wanted the shank to be more round and consistently shaped as it originally was not completely oval – it was only that shape on the left bottom side. The rest of the shank was round. I sanded until I had the shank rounded and matching the stem.Op21
Op22 I continued to shape and sand the rim and flow into the bowl. I worked on the slight bulge in the stem at the saddle to get the alignment and flow right. Since I had a clean slate to work with on this old briar I figured to get it as close as I could to a clean flowing look. I wanted it to look better than before not just cleaned up. It would take a lot of sanding and shaping before I was finished with it.Op23
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Op26 The fill on the bottom of the shank was solid except for one small spot in the centre of the repair so I sanded it, wiped it clean and filled in the spot with clear super glue. Once it dried I sanded it smooth to match the rest of the shank. The small rough spot was gone and the fill was smooth and dark.Op27 I cleaned out the shank and airway with the KLEENREEM drill bit to remove the buildup in that area. The draw on the shank was constricted so this was necessary to open it and give an easy draw to the pipe.Op28
Op29 I cleaned out the shank and the airway in both the bowl and stem with alcohol, cotton swabs and pipe cleaners until it was clean.Op30 I sanded the edges of the stem and the scratches in the saddle portion with 220 grit sandpaper to shape and define the edge and fit of the stem. I left a slight bend downward in the stem when I had straightened it and like the look of it.Op31
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Op34 I put a cork in the bowl of the pipe and prepared to stain it with the black undercoat. I wanted to highlight the interesting grain and the black would bring that out. It would also serve to mask the repair on the shank and the fill next to the bowl.Op35 I applied and flamed the black stain and repeated the process to get good coverage on the bowl.Op36 I wiped the bowl down with alcohol soaked cotton pads to remove the stain that did not settle into the grain.Op37
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Op40 I sanded the bowl and shank with a medium and fine grit sanding block to further remove the black stain. The contrast is beginning to show and the grain stand out.Op41
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Op44 I sanded the bowl and shank with 1500-1800 grit micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches on the briar.Op45
Op46 I wiped it down with alcohol on a cotton pad and then set it up for the top coat of stain. I chose to use a Cherry Danish Oil on the top coat. I applied it with a cotton pad and set the bowl aside to dry.Op47
Op48 While the bowl dried I worked on the stem. I wet sanded with 1500-2400 micromesh sanding pads to further fine tune the shape of the stem. I worked to remove the remnants of scratching left behind by the initial shaping done with the lower grits of sand paper. I rubbed the stem down with Obsidian Oil and then dry sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads. I gave it another coat of oil and finished sanding it with 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and let it dry.Op49
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Op51 The bowl was dry by the time I finished with the stem so I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond on the wheel and then gave both several coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the pipe with a clean flannel buffing pad and then hand buffed it with the microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I really like the way the contrast stain came out and the way it hid the fills on the shank. The pipe really has some stunning and interesting grain all the way. Not one side looks the same. There is birdseye, cross grain and swirled grain. I think the finished pipe is a great improvement from when I started it. Thanks for looking.Op52
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