Blog by Steve Laug
This was a new pipe brand for me. It is stamped RIFF in a double lined diamond on both the left side of the shank and on the horn stem. On the right side it is stamped CHELLA over *** (3 stars). On the underside of the shank it is stamped Made in Morocco and the shape number 221. This has to be the first Morocco made pipe that I have worked on. It was in pretty decent shape in terms of the bowl. There was a shiny shellac coat over a natural finish. The rim had some tars and oils built up on the back top side but inner and outer edge was in perfect shape. There was a slight burn mark on the front right top of the rim. The bowl had a slight cake that was uneven around the inside. The problem lay in the stem. There was a large crack in horn on the top that traveled half way down the stem. There was also a large chunk of horn missing on the underside of the stem. It was a very smooth scooped shape chunk that made me wonder how it had happened. When I pulled the stem out of the shank there was a large stinger apparatus that extended the length of the shank and ended in the bottom of the bowl. The tenon was metal. The internals of the shank and stem were quite clean. I was jazzed to work on this stem as it provided several challenges to me. I forgot to take pictures before I started but caught myself just after I started to work on the underside of the stem. I wiped the stem down with a cotton pad and alcohol to clean off the surface. I began to fill in the edges of the missing chunk with clear super glue. I layered the glue in place on the area until it was filled. Once it had cured overnight I would sand it down smooth with the surface of the stem. I cleaned out the crack with a dental pick. I drilled a tiny hole with a micro-drill bit at the end of the crack – toward the button. I filled in the crack and the drill hole with clear super glue and squeezed the crack together. I repeated the fill process until it formed a ridge along the crack. Once it cured I would sanded it smooth as well. While the repairs on the stem dried I worked on the stinger. I used the brass bristle brush and alcohol to scrub off the oils and tars.In the morning I sanded the stem with 220 grit sandpaper. I had built up the edge that faced on the shank to fill in the gap caused by the crack. In the photo of the top view of the stem it is the darkened band around the edge of the stem next to the shank. I sanded the stem smooth and blended the repairs into the surface of stem. I took some close-up photos of the stamping to show it to you. It was unique to me. The first photo shows that the underside of the shank reads Made in Morocco 221. The second photo shows the stamping on the left side and the horn stem – RIFF in a double diamond. The third photo shows the stamping on the right side of the shank – CHELLA ***. At this point you can see the repairs have blended into the surface quite well. They are darker than the stem material but most of that will disappear as the stem is polished. The stem is smooth on the top and the bottom and the crack and the missing chunk are no long detectable to touch. I continued to sand the stem until the repairs were very smooth. With the initial work done on the stem I worked on the bowl. I reamed it with a PipNet reamer and took the cake down to bare wood. The rim top was damaged with heavy tarring and a small burn mark on the front right side. I topped it lightly with a topping board to remove the damage and the build up. I scrubbed the shellac off the bowl with acetone on cotton pads to get down to the natural briar. I cleaned the stem with pipe cleaners and alcohol and the shank with the same using cotton swabs along with the pipe cleaners. It did not take much to remove the grime on the inside. I wet sanded the stem with 1500-2400 grit micromesh sanding pads to begin to polish it. The first photo below shows the top of the stem and the second shows the underside. I rubbed it down with Obsidian Oil and then dry sanded with 3200-4000 grit pads. The cracked area on the top of the stem is visible when you look for it but it is smooth to touch. It is interesting to see the striations begin to show in the polished horn.I gave it another coat of oil and then finished sanding it with 6000-12000 grit micromesh pads. The crack is definitely less visible on the top side of the stem (first photo below) and the filled in area on the underside is almost invisible (second photo). I rubbed the briar down with a light coat of olive oil and then buffed the stem and bowl with Blue Diamond on the wheel. I gave the pipe multiple coats of carnauba wax and buffed it with a clean buffing pad. I had buffed it with a microfibre cloth. The finish pipe is shown in the photos below. I tried to give a variety of photos and angles so that you can see the repaired areas. The photo below shows the underside of the stem and the repaired area mid stem near the spot in the photo.The next two photos below show the repaired crack in the top side of the stem from various angles. While it is visible to the eye it is smooth to the touch. The crack has been stabilized and the drilled spot at the far end has stopped it from spreading further. I am happy with the finished pipe. Thanks for looking.