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.
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.
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. The photos below show the stem in the pipe. The diameter of the shank and the diameter of the stem do not match. 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. 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.
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. I topped the bowl to remove the rim damaged and to clean up the edges of the rim. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.