Blog by Steve Laug
The second pipe sent to me for work was a nice older style diamond shank meerschaum. The bowl was clean with some grime on the outside and some lava on the rim top. The bowl was quite clean. The stem was Bakelite and was missing a lot of the parts to connect the two broken pieces. The tenon connecting the stem to the bowl was stuck in the shank but I was able to unscrew the broken stem from the tenon. The silver band was marked Sterling and was badly tarnished. I would clearly need to restem this pipe as the original stem was unusable. I went through my can of stems and found a likely candidate for the new stem. I did not have any Bakelite stems so I would have to use vulcanite and shape and drill it to fit. I had one stem that was slightly longer than the broken stem but the shape was right. The sides of the saddle were larger than the original as well so I would need to shape it to fit.I used the Dremel to remove the tenon from the new stem and flatten the end. I used the topping board to smooth out the end of the stem. Once I had it faced I used a drill bit to drill out the airway. I started with one slightly larger than the airway and hand turned the stem onto the bit. I changed the bit to one that was the same size as the tenon and repeated the process. I was able to twist the stem onto the tenon and it cut threads into the vulcanite. I thought I was set at this point as the stem fit pretty well. I would need to sand the sides and the points of the diamond to get a fit that matched the shank and band but it looked like it was going to work out well. I used the Dremel and sanding drum to remove the excess material on each side of the diamond, trying to get as close as possible without damaging the silver band. I would need to finish it by hand but I wanted to minimize the work that needed to be done by hand. I sanded it with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out the marks left behind by the Dremel and to further reduce the sides of the diamond.I put a drop of super glue on the Bakelite stem to get an idea of the angle of the bend in the stem. I figured I would use it along with the case as a template for the new stem. While it dried I sanded the surface of the new stem with 220 grit sandpaper and used the topping board to reduce the length of the stem. You can see that the vulcanite is cleaning up very nicely and the scratches are gone. I used a ragged piece of sanding sponge to sand the lava on the top of the rim. I was able to remove all of it without harming the patina on the rim or bowl.I polished the silver band with a jeweler’s cloth to remove the tarnish. I was able to remove the bone tenon from the shank of the pipe and clean out the inside of the shank before putting in a replacement tenon that I got from Tim at JH Lowe. The fit was perfect in both the shank and the stem. The new tenon was not brittle like the old one so it would last and give better durability to the pipe.I set up my heat gun and heated the stem until it was pliable. Using the old broken stem as a template I bent the new stem to match. I sanded the stem with a 1500 grit micromesh sanding pad to remove more of the scratching and then put it on the pipe to check the fit. I really like the look of the new stem. The black vulcanite goes well with the patina of the old meerschaum. I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads and then gave it a coat of Obsidian Oil. I am sure by now you know my drill by heart but just in case – I sanded it with 3200-4000 grit pads, another coat of oil and final sand with 6000-12000 grit pads. I gave it a final coat of Obsidian Oil and let it dry. I buffed the stem with Blue Diamond on the wheel and then gave it multiple coats of carnauba wax. I buffed the stem with a clean buff and then put it back on the bowl. I finished buffing the pipe with a microfibre cloth. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I like the way the black shiny vulcanite stem sets off the colours of the bowl. I hope the pipeman who sent it to me for a new stem will be pleased with the result. Thanks for looking.