Blog by Steve Laug
Not too long ago I received an email from a reader of rebornpipes regarding a pipe he was restoring. It was a beautiful little Hardcastle Bulldog that is stamped on the left underside Hardcastle over Special Selection over the number 7. He had finished cleaning and restoring it and it was looking good. He had done a thorough job, as I would see later in this post. He went on to tell me about how he had repeated my misadventure when buffing the pipe. Not long ago I posted about having finished a pipe and having the buffer snatch it from my hands and fling it against the floor. I snapped the tenon off a pipe I had finished while doing the final buffing. He wrote that he had done the same thing exactly. He wanted to know if I would be willing to put a new tenon on the stem. He noted a hairline crack at the shank/bowl junction and wondered if I would be willing to deal with that at the same time. We wrote back and forth and he sent me the following photos. The first one shows the cleaned up pipe ready for buffing.The next photo he sent shows the crack at the top of the shank on both topsides of the diamond. It stopped on both sides before it got to the edge of the diamond.The third photo shows the stem with the snapped tenon. He did a far better job snapping it off than I had done on mine. My broken tenon was jagged and needed to be sanded smooth before I could replace the tenon.He sent the pipe to me Vancouver for me to work on. It is funny in that it took a longer time to arrive from Idaho than pipes I have received from the east coast. But when it arrived I took photos of it. I have a container of threaded tenons here that I use for replacement tenons on pipes. I like the way they grip in the drilled out stem. Once they are anchored in place with glue on the threads, there is little chance that they will come out. I went through my tenons and found one that would fit the mortise with a little adjustment – the fit was tight and it was a little long for the shank.I set up my cordless drill and chose a bit that was close to the size of the airway in the stem. I have learned to work my way gradually through bits until I get to the size of the threaded portion of the new tenon. Doing it this way keeps the stem material from chipping or breaking away with the pressure of the drill bit. I turn the stem onto the stationary drill by hand so that I can control the depth of the bit. I mark the bit with scotch tape ahead of time to measure the depth of the drilled out airway that I need to have when I am finished.Once I had the airway opened enough to take the threaded end I used a tap to cut threads on inside of the newly opened airway. I turned the tenon in place on the stem to check the fit against the face of the stem.I checked the fit against the end of the mortise and found that the tenon was too long. I used a Dremel and sanding drum to bring it down to the correct length and cleaned up the end of the tenon with the topping board.I glued the new tenon in place in the stem with medium viscosity black superglue. It allows me time to adjust and align it so that it fits the mortise well and leaves no gaps.I set the stem aside overnight to allow the glue to cure. In the morning, I fine-tuned the fit so that it sat well in the shank. I chamfered/beveled the airway in the end of the new tenon to maximize the airflow into the stem.I put the stem in place in the shank and took photos of the newly repaired stem. This little Hardcastle Bulldog is a really beauty and extremely lightweight. The Cumberland stem looks good with the briar and gives the pipe an elegant appearance. I polished the stem and the tenon with micromesh sanding pads to remove any remaining scratches. I set the stem aside and turned my attention to the crack on the shank/bowl junction. I examined the crack with a bright light and a lens to make sure I could see the ends of the crack on both sides of the shank. It was a tight hairline crack so I just needed to stop it from spreading further. I drilled the end of the crack on both sides of the top of the shank using my Dremel and a microdrill bit. I slow the Dremel down to a speed of 10 so that I can carefully put the holes at the crack ends without it either going too deep in the shank or bouncing across the surface of the shank. It did not take too long to drill the holes.I took it back to the work table and took photos showing the two drill holes. The plan now was to use a dental pick to see if I could open the crack at all. I wanted to be able to put superglue into the crack to seal the two sides. It did not budge so I scratched it with the pick to provide a rough surface for the glue to adhere.I ran a bead of clear super glue the length of the crack from drill hole to drill hole. I put a drop of glue into each drill hole to fill them in. Since they are so tiny, I don’t bother with briar dust. I used the end of the dental pick to push the glue deep into the drill hole and refilled it to a bubble.Once the glue hardened I sanded it smooth to match the surface of the shank using 220 and 320 grit sandpaper folded to fit the angle of the junction. I sanded the area until the repair was smooth with the surface of the shank. I wanted the transition to be seamless. I took a close up photo of the repair on both sides of the shank to show what I had to deal with in terms of blending it into the finish of the bowl and shank.I sanded the repair with micromesh sanding pads to remove the scratches left behind by the sand paper. I worked through 1500-4000 grit pads to polish the shank. I polished the gold band with the higher grades of micromesh as well to give them a richer gleam. The repairs were slightly lighter in colour than the rest of the shank and the bowl so they would need to be restained. I restained the repaired area with a medium brown stain pen to blend it into the colour of the bowl and shank. I buffed the stained areas by hand with a microfibre cloth.I wrote to the pipeman who owned it and told him I had finished the repair to the shank and the stem and was touching up the stain. He wrote back to say that I had carte blanche to finish the pipe in any stain I saw fit. That was the go ahead I needed. I wanted to highlight the red hues in the briar that stood out in the bright light. I also knew that a red stain would allow me to blend in the repaired areas on the shank/bowl junction better. So I chose to stain the pipe with Danish Oil with Cherry stain. I am really happy with how the red of the stain works to highlight the grain. It also goes really well with the Cumberland stem and its red striations.I warmed the briar and applied the stain with a cotton pad. The nature of Danish Oil stain is that it highlights grain and breathes life into the wood. I let it sit for 10 minutes and hand buffed it off the bowl and shank. I took the next four photos of the finished bowl once I had hand buffed it. I buffed the bowl and stem with Blue Diamond polish on the buffing wheel to polish out any remaining scratches in the finish of the briar or the Cumberland. I gave them multiple coats of carnauba wax to protect the finish and buffed it with a clean buffing pad to raise a shine. I hand buffed it with a microfibre cloth to deepen the shine. I hand buffed the gold band on the shank with a jeweler’ cloth to polish and shine it. The finished pipe is shown in the photos below. I really like the finished look of the pipe. It is a beautiful and well executed Bulldog and it should serve its owner well. I plan on letting him know that if it does not fit his collection it will always have a home here. Thanks for looking.